Special bikes, long rides home, and a huge, citywide party in Milwaukee are just the start
Harley-Davidson turns 115-years-old this year, and the venerable Motor Company plans to celebrate with a bang. We've seen other big-time anniversaries from Harley before—the 95th, 100th, etc.—and each has been special in its own way. So what makes this year's anniversary so special? A whole lot of things, apparently.
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Yesterday, I had the pleasure of talking to Bill Davidson—Vice President of the Harley-Davidson Museum and son of Willie G.—and Harley's Vice President of Marketing Heather Malenshek about the ins and outs of the upcoming 115th anniversary party.
"We've been running these since the 85th anniversary, and our 115th anniversary is going to be different than any anniversary we've done before," Malenshek told me. "In previous anniversaries, we've been more focused on our existing customer base. In this anniversary we want to celebrate motorcycle culture, invite riders and non-riders alike to enjoy the festivities, and really engage people in the sport."
"The great thing about these anniversaries is that they're global in nature," said Davidson. "We invite folks from all corners of the world and all walks of life to celebrate Harley-Davidson and our significant legacy. We're holding events nationally, and this year we're bringing back the cross-country rides home to Milwaukee."
These cross-country rides, the Harley-Davidson Rides Home, will start on Tuesday, August 21 from Seattle, Washington; San Diego, California; Ft. Lauderdale, Florida; and Portland, Maine. Each ride will snake along the country's highways and byways, through big and small towns, and finally converge on Milwaukee for the big bash on Labor Day weekend.
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“The rumble of our Milwaukee 115th Anniversary Celebration will truly be heard across the United States as Harley-Davidson Rides Home launch from the four corners of the country," said Malenshek.
The party itself is a much larger affair than previous years' parties. With the Harley-Davidson museum as the center of the party, events will be spread throughout the city. Along with motorcycle field games, a custom bike show, tattoo artists, live music, local food, and all the other things you'd expect at a big Harley party, the 115th anniversary will feature a whole lot of racing. There'll be a "run what you brung" drag race, Flat Out Friday flat track racing, and—for the first time ever—beach racing along beautiful Lake Michigan on Bradford Beach.
The best thing about all this, aside from a weekend packed with Harley hooliganry? It's all free and open to the public. Sure there are VIP packages available, but if you don't have the cash—or don't want to spend it—you can just walk right in and enjoy the fun.
Harlistas don't have to wait until August to start celebrating, though. Starting today, February 27, Harley-Davidson is launching a global movement to celebrate freedom by collecting stories from fans around the world. Riders can share their stories online via the #HD115 hashtag The authors of the best 115 stories will receive a commemorative stainless-steel rivet displayed in a place of honor on the grounds of the Harley-Davidson Museum.
Additionally, one Monday in every month leading up to the anniversary in Milwaukee, Harley-Davidson will hand over the reins of its social media channels to an H-D fan. They’ll share their stories and lead the conversation at #MotorcycleMonday to help extend weekends for all freedom-loving individuals who are part of our community today and for those yet to join. To take part in the online festivities, check out Harley on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.
If you'd like to know more about Harley's 115th anniversary shenanigans, and why wouldn't you, check out the Harley-Davidson 115th Anniversary website. There you'll find all the details about events, camping, the Rides Home, parties, lodging, and anything else you might need to make your Harley anniversary weekend a success. Also, because that's the kind of nice guy I am, I've included some pertinent info on the various events below. Happy motoring!
Harley-Davidson 115th Anniversary Celebration in Milwaukee:
Harley-Davidson Museum™: Central Rally Point
400 W Canal St., Milwaukee
8/29-9/1, 9 a.m.-11 p.m.; 9/2, 9 a.m.-6 p.m.
Harley-Davidson history and culture come to life at the Museum site, with free outdoor activities scheduled for the entire weekend including entertainment on two stages plus food and beverage vendors, photo opportunities and a display of the latest Harley-Davidson motorcycle models.
- H-D Museum Archives and Tours: (Admission required) Motorcycles and artifacts tell the story of the Motor Company’s rich history. All H.O.G. members enjoy complimentary admission with a valid H.O.G. membership card and Photo ID. General Admission Museum tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. CDT March 9 at H-D Museum.
- Custom Culture Artisans: See artists working in leather and steel, painting and drawing, and creating designer apparel.
- MotoPhotoShow: Experience the moto-centric photography gallery featuring top artists and photographers.
- Pinstriping: Customize your ride with pinstriping applied by professional artists.
- Live Tattoos: Get the ultimate 115th Anniversary souvenir by professional tattoo artists.
- Stunt Shows: Be amazed at the skills of top motorcycle stunt performers.
- Museum H.O.G. Pin: H.O.G. Members can pick up a 2018 Museum H.O.G. Pin.
- Sailor Jerry Cocktail Bar & Flash Art Gallery: Learn the story of Norman Collins (aka Sailor Jerry) as you share a cocktail and witness the emerging American counterculture who chose to live outside the lines.
- 115th Anniversary Living the Legend™ Rivets: Celebrate your H-D journey or honor the legacy of a loved one with a customized Living the Legend Rivet permanently displayed on the Harley-Davidson Museum grounds. Order by June 15, 2018 for installation by the 115th Anniversary Celebration. H-D Museum
- Motorcycle Field Games (Saturday 9/1) Help support the BUILD program and take part in vintage motorcycle games including Slow Races, Plank Ride, T-ball, Barrel Roll, Ball on Cone and Weenie Bite and. On-line registration will be live on the H-D Museum website in June.
- 10th Annual Harley-Davidson Museum® Custom Bike Show (Sunday, 9/2) On-line registration for 12 show classes will be live on the H-D Museum website in June.
Harley-Davidson 115th and HOG 35th Anniversary Moto-Carnival
Veterans Park, 1010 N Lincoln Memorial Dr. Milwaukee
8/29, noon-11 p.m.; 8/30-9/1, 10 a.m.-11 p.m.; 9/2, noon-6 p.m.
This free party – to celebrate the 115th and 35 years of the Harley Owners Group – kicks off Wednesday as riders roll into Veterans Park. All weekend long the Full Throttle Saloon will serve up high-wire motorcycle thrill shows, Wall of Death and more. Come meet up with friends, grab a refreshing beverage, listen to some music and visit with locals at this carnival filled with riding and revelry.
Motorcycle Racing Action
- Flat Out Friday Powered by Harley-Davidson
Panther Arena, 400 W Kilbourn Ave., Milwaukee; 8/31 7 p.m.-10 p.m.
See the best of indoor, flat track motorcycle racing as riders from both traditional and special classes compete on a soft-drink-syrup-covered track, creating the best of tight, bar-to-bar racing action. Tickets go on-sale later this summer.
- Run What You Brung Powered by Harley-Davidson
Great Lakes Dragaway, 18411 1st St., Union Grove, Wis. 8/31, Noon-10:30 p.m.
Drag race side-by-side and keep getting back in line to show them what you got. Three performances by the Twin Stunts All-Harley Show. Tickets on sale at noon CDT March 9, 2018. Visit greatlakesdragaway.com for more information on practice sessions and to purchase racing and admission tickets.
- Harley-Davidson Beach Racing at Bradford Beach
2400 N. Lincoln Memorial Dr., Milwaukee
8/31 Times TBD, 9/1 3-8 p.m.
In a Harley-Davidson anniversary first, bikes will tear through the sand on the shoreline of Lake Michigan. Free and open to the public, this beach-focused event will provide gritty fun for all ages. On Friday, racers will be wrenching and kicking up sand as they practice for the competition. Racers on vintage and new bikes will meet up Saturday and battle it out on an oval track created in the sand right on Bradford Beach.
Juneau Avenue Global Headquarters
3700 W. Juneau Ave., Milwaukee
8/29-9/1 8 a.m.-5 p.m.
Visit the historic site of the first Harley-Davidson factory with free photo opportunities. Experience a 2019 Harley-Davidson motorcycle on the indoor Harley-Davidson JUMPSTART™ Rider Experience.
Factory Tour: Harley-Davidson Powertrain Operations
8/29-8/31 Times vary
W156N9000 Pilgrim Rd, Menomonee Falls, Wis.
Get up close and personal with the Milwaukee-Eight™ and Sportster® powertrain assembly line.
HOG 35th Civilian Skills Competition & Police Skills Competition
Preliminary rounds at Miller Park 8/30 – 8/31 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; Finals at Veterans Park, 9/1 10 a.m.-6 p.m.
This is serious competition, with trained motor officers and civilian HOG members showcasing their riding skills through challenging patterns.
9/2 at 1 p.m.
Riders from around the world will wave their hometown flags as fans line the route to see the beauty and the brawn of customized motorcycles and unique show bikes. The parade kicks off at 45th Street and Wisconsin Avenue, continues east through downtown Milwaukee and lands at the Harley-Davidson 115th Anniversary and HOG 35th Moto-Carnival at Veterans Park.