Thousands of Harley-Davidson riders recently descended on Milwaukee for the company’s 115th anniversary celebrations. VISIT Milwaukee estimated 150,000 riders visited the city, making an economic impact of $95 million. Executives of Milwaukee-based Harley-Davidson Inc. and local officials, including Mayor Tom Barrett, marked the official start of the celebration on Aug. 29 at Veterans Park. In a media event held just before the ceremony, executives sought to turn the focus away from questions about President Donald Trump and Harley’s decision to produce European motorcycles overseas. “What’s important to us is that experience of togetherness and riding,” said Dave Cotteleer, Harley vice president and managing director of U.S. sales at Harley. “That’s what this celebration is about. That’s what we are absolutely focused on this weekend.”
In addition to Veterans Park, the Harley-Davidson Museum was a major focus of the 115th anniversary celebration. 1) Throughout the week, South Sixth Street turned into a parking lot for motorcycles. 2) Attendees also filed into the museum’s parking lot. 3) Harley had a production version of its LiveWire motorcycle on display at the museum. The bike is expected to launch in August 2019 as part of the 2020 model year. New motorcycles released as part of the 2019 model year were also on display. 4) Attendees arrive at the Harley-Davidson Museum. Parking along West Canal Street stretched nearly to North 16th Street. 5) Harley’s Jumpstart experience allows new riders to begin learning to ride without having to keep a motorcycle upright or worry about traffic. 6) Attendees look at vintage motorcycles meant to promote Harley racing events taking place during the 115th anniversary. 7) A couple looks at the Living Legend Wall of Rivets at the Harley Museum. 8) Milsco, a seating supplier to Harley, took advantage of its new location just blocks from the museum to offer tours of its facility.[gallery type="slideshow" size="full" ids="448457,448458,448459,448460,448461,448462,448463,448464"]
Harley-Davidson placed a heavy emphasis on racing during its 115th anniversary celebration, drawing on the roots of the company and the sport of motorcycling. One major event was the Bradford Beach Brawl, at which motorcycles in a number of classes raced on the sand of Bradford Beach. Other events included a hill climb at Little Switzerland in Slinger, drag racing in Union Grove and flat track racing at the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena in downtown Milwaukee. Matt King, Harley communications manager, said racing is interesting to core fans, but also exposes potential new riders to the sport. “It brings people in. It engages them in an exciting spectacle,” he said.
Music played a central role in the Harley-Davidson 115th anniversary celebration, but unlike previous years, organizers tried to de-centralize the party. There were still major stages at Veterans Park and the Harley-Davidson Museum, but there were also street parties throughout the city, including in Walker’s Point, on East Brady Street, in the Historic Third Ward and in Wauwatosa. Dealerships throughout the region also had festivities of their own.