By Ethan Duran
Banners for Harley-Davidson’s 115th Anniversary Celebration hang on every corner in Milwaukee. They’ve been propped up on North Lincoln Memorial Drive, hanging over Locust and Brady Street and have even popped up on MCTS buses. The celebration lasts five days. The city-wide event started at Veteran’s Park on Aug. 29 and will end with a parade through Downtown Milwaukee on Sept. 2.
If you missed the first day or two of the event, don’t be discouraged. The Harley-Davidson Museum is the central rally point for the celebration and will feature live music, an art exhibit of works by late influential tattoo artist Norman ‘Sailor Jerry’ Collins and motorcycle field games starting Sept.1. Reverend Horton Heat will take the stage that Saturday night among 17 rock and country bands cycling through the days of the event.
The Museum will offer boot shines and beard trims for those who have traveled the long road to get here. There will also be professional tattoo artists on site for those who want to write their Milwaukee memory in permanent ink.
The Museum isn’t the only place to catch celebration events. In view of the lake, Harley-Davidson’s Moto-Carnival kicks off at Veteran’s Park. Inside the festival walls is a massive music stage, food tents and cages for bike stunts. Though the weather has been frightful lately, Harley owners from all over the country walk the muddy field in boots and leather chaps, enjoying attractions like the Ferris Wheel, the Bungee Slingshot, and the Globe of Death.
Vince Howerton is a member of a motorcycle club out of Portsmouth, VA. His small enclave of eight had driven over 1,000 miles to enjoy the festival and participate in the parade. Howerton and his crew said they’ve been on all sorts of bikes – Hondas, Yamahas and Suzukis, but Harley-Davidson motorcycles just, “Do it for them.”
“A running joke in the Harley community is telling people that they wouldn’t understand,” Howerton said while proudly leaning on his touring bike, “It’s just a Harley thing.”
Howerton has been riding Harley for 40 years now, but the turnout at the festival ranged from young adults to older, more seasoned vets. Managing to stay above the mud were lines of new models that Harley-Davidson set up outside of their tents for prospecting buyers and those looking to add something new to their collection. The feature models of the day were retro-style motorcycles and cruisers.
On the final day of the celebration, thousands of Harley riders will take off in the parade from 45th Street and Wisconsin Avenue and make their way through Downtown Milwaukee until they reach Veterans Park. According to the Harley-Davidson website, there are four ways to enter into the parade; by entering the Adventure Challenge earlier this summer, acquiring a free parade pass by an H-D representative during the celebration, buying a Chrome Experience Rally Pack or by finding other chances to win a place by following the website.