Harley dealers’ event moves to Milwaukee Mile to accommodate bigger crowd
Motorcycles will roam Milwaukee streets en masse next week as the four Harley-Davidson Dealers of Metro Milwaukee host the Milwaukee Rally for the second year in a row, but this time at a new location.
Based on the success of last year’s event, which organizers say attracted more than 30,000 people, this year’s rally was moved from Veterans Park at the Lakefront to the Milwaukee Mile at State Fair Park, which can accommodate a bigger crowd, more activities and more vendors. Up to 50,000 people are expected this year.
"This year the rally is really known," said John Schaller, president of the House of Harley-Davison dealership and also president of the Harley-Davidson Dealers of Metro Milwaukee. "We expanded our advertising this year, and we will do more in the future as this event grows."
The move also recognizes the 100th anniversary of the Milwaukee Mile – the nation’s oldest continually operating major speedway, which boasts a new $25 million grandstand.
The June 5-8 rally will include a variety of events, most of them at the Milwaukee Mile grounds. Those events include performances by national and regional bands, a "Ms. Milwaukee Rally" bikini contest (with preliminary rounds at local bars), Nitro Extreme Trials Team performances, virtual drag racing, other entertainment and an attempt at serving "the world’s largest fish fry."
The attempt to assemble the world’s largest fish fry will be based on the invitation to the community as well as rally attendees. Last year, more than 6,500 people were at the Friday portion of the rally.
Port Washington now lays claim to "the world’s largest outdoor fish fry" for its annual Port Fish Day festival. That event is set this year for Saturday, July 19.
The national acts for the Milwaukee Rally include The Marshall Tucker Band, Eddie Money, John Kay and Steppenwolf and The Yardbirds.
Away from the grounds, tours will be offered at Harley-Davidson Motor Co.’s power train plant in Wauwatosa. That plant also will be the assembly point for a motorcycle parade on Sunday the 8th. It will depart the facility, near 124th Street and Capitol Drive, at 11:40 a.m., heading to the Milwaukee Mile grounds.
There will be no charge for admission to the Milwaukee Mile grounds, but a $20 "passport" is being sold. The passport includes motorcycle parking inside the Milwaukee Mile oval, special-offer coupons and souvenirs.
The motorcycle dealers that are producing the event are the independently owned Hal’s Harley-Davidson/Buell, House of Harley-Davidson, Milwaukee Harley-Davidson/Buell and Suburban Harley-Davidson/Buell.
The four dealers started talking about a Milwaukee rally about 2-1/2 years ago. "We deeply felt there ought to be a bike rally in the center of the motorcycling universe," said Schaller, who notes that, along with Milwaukee having Harley-Davidson Motor Co.’s headquarters, the Chicago-Milwaukee area has the greatest density of motorcycle ridership in the world. "But for each dealer, there wasn’t anything we could have done individually to make this happen."
The event isn’t just for fun; it’s also good for sales. "It’s certainly good for business," Schaller said. "A lot of these riders come from outside the area." They spend at the dealerships, and they spend at the rally. Schaller said that 90% of the vendors at last year’s event asked to return this year because business was so good at the inaugural event.
The majority of the riders will come from within a 75-mile radius, but others will come from much farther away.
While the Harley dealers are coordinating the rally, they are inviting riders of any make of motorcycle to participate.
The rally is not connected with Harley-Davidson Motor Co., which later this year will bring thousands more motorcycles to Milwaukee at the end of August to celebrate its 100th anniversary.
More information on the Milwaukee Rally is available on the Web at www.milwaukeerally.com.
May 30, 2003 Small Business Times, Milwaukee