Sturgis By The People: Tattoo Tales

Shaun Kama of Halloween Tattoos – and Director of the Buffalo Chip’s tattoo program – talks tattoos, Covid safety and his Chip family

Words by Joy Burgess

Photos courtesy of Shaun Kama

Shaun Kama of Halloween Tattoos has been running the Buffalo Chip’s tattoo program for a decade now, and the two tattoo locations there – at the Crossroads and the Arena – are hot spots during the Sturgis Rally. After all, tattoos and motorcycles go hand-in-hand for many. With the Chip leading the way with safety protocols at a Rally that fell in the middle of a pandemic, getting a tattoo was a bit different this year. 

“We went to the nines protecting everyone,” Kama noted. “We did a temp check on everyone that came in, they had to fill out a Covid form, we only allowed two consults in at a time, and we required masks. I cut my crew in half to give everyone plenty of space, implemented plenty of Plexiglas inside the café, and used shower curtains to compartmentalize each location.”

“Surprisingly,” he continued, “no one really gave us a hard time. People who were against masking didn’t show up, and it actually cut down on the people who were looking but not really ready to buy a tattoo. Only people who were serious came through, and we were still slammed.” 

Kama was proud of how his team and the entire group at the Chip handled precautions. “One thing that made me feel good was the health department telling us that we were the only shop that went to greater lengths to protect people from Covid. I was told that many places downtown were literally business as usual – there were no masks, no social distancing, and no new protocols being followed – that’s troubling.”  

“I know Rod [Woodruff, CEO of the Chip] was really happy that I was taking precautions seriously,” Kama continued. “The reputation of the Buffalo Chip is something that’s important to us all. To have the show, still do it, and still give people freedom while going to every length to keep people safe while we were there, speaks volumes about everyone as a whole at the Chip.” 

“Because it’s the 80th Anniversary Rally,” Kama noted, “I tattooed several buffalo skulls – some were really realistic and others were detailed caricatures – and there were a lot of Buffalo Chip branding and support tattoos going on, too.” 

“In the 11 years I’ve been interacting with the Buffalo Chip,” Kama said, “I’ve met more people who will stick around in my life and who I love and care about than I have in the decades prior. There’s been such a great concentration of people I’ve met at the Chip, from the family that owns it to the people who work for them to the people that patronize it.”

“Everyone was respectful, spirits were high, and tipping was really good this year,” Kama told Thunder Press. “Some people were just happy to be happy and to be doing something for themselves after being completely locked down for many months. A cathartic release for them as well as ourselves.”

Thunder Press will be publishing stories and photos submitted by readers throughout the month of September to celebrate the 80th Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.

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