Editors Note: We asked Johnny Klaasen (an up and coming MI photographer) to cover the RedBud National for us and being it was his first ever red bud experience, we asked him to give us what it's like from the "fresh eyes" of a new photographer
Just over a year ago I began photographing this sport; a sport that I have loved since I was a child. I had no idea what I had gotten myself into the first day I brought my camera to a track. The love for the community, the action, and the feeling of accomplishment soon overwhelmed me and I knew this would be something I would stick with immediately. Dirt bike tracks just have a way of doing that to a person, you know? So as anyone can imagine, when I was contacted to photograph and document my experience for this year’s RedBud National it was a dream come true.
The first thing I noticed about RedBud is the incredible event staff. When you pull up to the gates you are greeted by some of the nicest, most patient, and helpful staff you will ever see. From the parking instructors to the security, it is truly professionalism. This being my first time at RedBud, or a professional event for that matter, I had no idea what the experience would be. We pulled in early Friday afternoon and began the RedBud experience. The very first thing I did was head over to the pro pits to get a look at the beautiful machines these guys get to ride just about every day. If you want to get a real good look and meet some of the great mechanics behind these bikes I would definitely recommend coming on Friday and getting a RacerX Pit Pass. The bikes, the rigs, and just watching all the preparations that lead up to every weekend’s race is truly amazing. After I got my fix of all the pro stuff, I headed over to watch some amateur racing. This is honestly one of the coolest parts about RedBud. Everybody and their grandmother loves motocross that attends this event and RedBud knows these people have to get their fix of action on a bike while there.
After a long day in the sun, it’s key to stay “hydrated” and RedBud fans know that better than anyone else. If I had to describe the Redbud nightlife in one word? Crazy. If you’re going to try to sleep, forget a tent and don’t park anywhere even close to Lot B because they’ll party so hard you will have no choice but to do the same. But who’s complaining, right? The party stories from RedBud are endless though, so I’ll let you just write your own.
Saturday morning started off early for me. Walking to the safety meeting I encountered only the few who survived the night, and the lucky men and women who actually got some sleep. Soon after that, practice and qualifying began and the people started pouring in by the thousands. By the time qualifying was over, every bit of room was filled with spectators in their red, white, and blue. Every single one ready for an awesome day of racing. RedBud truly is “America’s Motocross Track”. After qualifying and practice, the riders were given a brief break and fans were given the opportunity to get autographs and meet some of their favorite riders. The fact that people actually get to meet these people up close and in person is incredible to me. Some kids heroes, people they have looked up to for a long time, are sitting right there. It would be like a kid who loves basketball getting to meet Lebron James or Kobe Bryant, but you can’t expect to just go to a game and meet them. At a motocross track, you can do just that and it’s easily one of the best parts of the sport.
The gates started filling up for the first motos and the fans were going wild as they eagerly watched the 30 second board turn sideways. The sound of air horns and screaming fans went through the air for what I can only imagine as miles. Watching a professional gate drop is really like no gate drop you’ll ever see, especially when it’s at the largest and most crazy round of the outdoor season. The gate dropped and the sound of four stroke ripped through everyone’s body. Walking the track I got a unique perspective of what the fans are about and it was a truly deep love for the sport all around. People cheering every rider on from the biggest superstars to the privateers who maybe just obtained their pro card. Little kids and even full grown adults staring at their heroes with smiles that couldn’t even begin to describe how awesome they feel in that moment. It’s quite evident that this is one of the greatest times of everyone’s year.
As the final motos of the day were wrapping up, the fans filed out in all of their sunburnt and less-than-sober glory. Some stayed to camp out and enjoy another night of the RedBud experience followed by some Pro-Am racing on Sunday, others (myself included) started the journey back home. One thing I can say about RedBud is that it steals your heart. I will be back every year no matter what because the experience is just that incredible. It will have you missing it the minute you leave the driveway and have you already excited for next year’s the first time you ever go. Anybody, even if you’ve never seen a single motocross race, will leave this place addicted to the sport. If you have never been, go. If you go every year, bring a big group and the share memories of a life time with the people you care about and they will be back every year with you. It’s just a good time.
*Note: I would really like to thank everyone who has helped get me to where I am. Without people sharing my photos, telling me to keep it up, or saying they like my work, I really wouldn’t be in this position. Every little thing drives me to do more and pursue this dream head on. Also, a special thank you to Adam Alexander for giving me such an amazing opportunity to work with such an amazing team of dedicated people at MichiganMotocross I’m looking forward to seeing what the future has in-store.