H-D's 105th Birthday
This past August, Milwaukee was the epicenter of the motorcycling universe. More than 100,000 Harley riders overtook every hotel in the region to take part in H-D's 105th birthday party. The ride home to Harley's hometown started a week before the event via 105 official starting points across the country. On Thursday's opening day the excitement level was high as riders were treated to a big party at H-D's Juneau Avenue headquarters.
But, that was just the beginning of four days of nonstop action. The city of Milwaukee must be applauded for its gracious hospitality, all the way down to the most tolerant police force we've ever witnessed. It was an anything goes type of event without the trappings of most big rally environments. Helping the situation were well-behaved crowds consisting of a good mix of age groups and demographics. Parking was free throughout the whole city, where cars were pretty much banned from clogging up the streets. When the streets got full, it was sidewalks, alleys, and anywhere you could squeeze a bike into. Each day entire streets were closed down and turned into impromptu concert venues. We caught Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Blue Oyster Cult, Tea Leaf Green, and a newly reformed Blind Melon for free while kicking back watching people from all over the world get into the birthday spirit.
Those concerts were just warm-ups for the mega acts that H-D and the Summerfest concert series offered. Kid Rock and Joan Jett played for the 25th anniversary H.O.G. party at Miller Park. The big-time action happened along the amazing lakefront concert venues. ZZ Top jammed for a packed crowd--those guys flat-out rocked. The following night, the Foo Fighters followed Three Days Grace and rocked the house. It was an amazing show that helped entertain the younger of the 105th attendees. Some of the Foos ride too, so they understand the H-D culture, making them a great fit all around. We have a feeling we'll be seeing more currently popular bands like the Foo Fighters developing relationships with Harley.
The following night saw one of the biggest events to ever hit Mil-Town: The Boss. No, not Willie G., but Jersey's own Bruce Springsteen backed by the E Street Band. Bruce and crew played an astonishing 3-1/2 hours before ending the night with a rocking Born to Be Wild. To say all of this was less than amazing would be an understatement.
Another major hub of activity was the newly opened Harley-Davison Museum located on a 20-acre plot in an industrial part of the downtown area. Harley was king enough to give the press a few private hours in the museum. The bad part: it was at 6 a.m. We had just got into town and were jetlagged, but woke up at 4:30 a.m. to catch all the action. Greeting visitors to the museum is sculptor Jeff Decker's 1-1/2-scale bronze statue depicting a hill climbing rider. Filled with bikes dating back to an original 1903 Silent Grey Fellow model, the building is filled with 105 years of everything Davidson. In three hours we barely scraped the surface of information and eye-candy. It's historic, sociological, and mechanical. In a sense, it's our collective cultural history, not just a reminiscence of a motorcycle company. It's incredible to see the role and impact Harley has had on 20th-century society and culture. We wound up returning and spending another half day there. We still couldn't get through all the exhibits and info. The museum is a place that can change lives.
No proper birthday would be complete without a parade. Thousands of riders departed from the factory, ending up at Lake Michigan. The streets were packed with frenzied spectators cheering on riders from all nations. Flags and banners from throughout the world flew from bikes. The sights and sounds brought smiles and cheers from toddlers to the elderly.