ROCKFORD, ILL., June 23—Many companies have started up over the years and have come and gone in the marketplace. This year marks the 100th anniversary of Kegel Harley-Davidson, originally known as Freeport Cycle Sales before changing to Jos. Kegel Co. in 1909 in Freeport, Illinois. Joseph Kegel became a Harley dealer in 1912, thus the 100-year celebration in 2012. Kegel H-D is one of these few companies to reach that hallowed 100th birthday, and it is still run by family members Karl and his brother Mark. In addition, several other family members also work at the store.
Kegel H-D started their anniversary with their champagne party in November, which is always a big hit with its customers. Various rides and events were sponsored by the dealer during the year, with the culmination occurring June 23 at a large party called the Great American Biker Jam and the Harley Owners Group Rock River chapter bike raffle. In addition, Kegel H-D also sponsored a Country Throwdown event featuring Gary Allan, Josh Thompson, Sunny Sweeney, Eric Paslay, Florida-Georgia Line and Maggie Rose at a downtown venue after all the bike partying. Rodney Atkins was also featured, and as part of the music party, Kegel was providing bikes for any of the band members that wanted to take a break from a boring hotel stay and go for a ride. Several took them up on the offer and were picked up and brought to the dealership. I talked to Alan, one of Kegel’s riding instructors and a H.O.G. safety officer, because I was not sure what experience the band members had. Only one had ridden a Harley, other than Atkins who travels with his own bike, and the others had spent some time on smaller crotch rockets, so at least they could ride. The drummer for the Maggie Rose band had not spent much time on a bike, so Sarah was paired up with another entertainer, Jake, for the day. One of the entertainers, Kevin Rapillo from the Rodney Atkins band, was riding a new V-Rod, or as Alan calls it, “a land missile,” and mentioned that the bike was a lot heavier than what he was used to. We silently took bets that he was going to have a tough time on the ride.
Local H.O.G. members Tom and Mona Olson were picking up the musicians and dropping them off at Kegel. Earlier one of the buses had some
mechanical problems, which required two trips, but eventually everyone that wanted to ride got set up. The plan was for Tom to lead the group, along with Rodney Atkins, on the poker run set up for the day and they headed out to the great Northern Illinois countryside for the 58-mile trip. After the run I saw Kevin on the V-Rod and he had a good time, but he was not sure how fast that bike could go because he was a little reluctant to get out of second gear. He wasn’t sure what top-end speed could be, and wasn’t sure he wanted to know. Because they had early schedule requirements they didn’t get to spend a lot of free time at the Biker Jam, but they were all happy to spend it on bikes having a blast.
Other notables showed up to wish the Kegels congratulations for the 100th including Illinois State Senator Dave Syverson. Dave is a longtime state legislator and also a bike guy. He is a member of a local ABATE chapter and supports bikers in the state. Karl had told me that some of The Motor Company execs were also coming down and sure enough, at about 12:30 p.m. Matt Levatich, president and chief operating officer of The Motor Company along with Scott Miller, the VP and general manager of Parts, Accessories, CVO and Trikes, or as Scott calls it, “the cool stuff,” showed up with Corry Weber from the sales department. Everyone first met them in the Kegels’ office for a few minutes and I had a chance to watch both Matt and Scott. Matt doesn’t come off as a stuffy president and was very friendly with everyone.
After a few minutes we went to the showroom to take some pictures of the Kegels with the execs in front of a replica of the original Harley entrance. The store then made an announcement that anyone wanting to meet Matt and Scott was welcome to do so. I watched Matt and Scott and it was very interesting as they met local bikers. Each took an interest in what was said, paid attention to the people and took their time with everyone. I was very impressed.
Meanwhile, the parking area behind the store was filling up. I had talked to Jen from S&S (one of the vendors) earlier and she was a little concerned about the size of the crowd. I told her not to worry; once the poker run was done, she would be very busy—and I was right. I talked to her later in the day and she was very happy with the event. The vendors took up most of the parking lot and the field events took up most of the lawn space behind the store. For an event such as this, there is a road next to the building that provides additional space for bikes and cages to park. The crowd was the biggest I had seen for a Kegel event, and when I talked to Karl the next day he mentioned that they ran out of space to park the bikes and some of the cars, so a space across the street was used. A hard number of visitors was difficult to come by, but based on pop and beer sales Karl estimated between 2,500 and 3,000 people were at the event. The party was popular with bikers and non-bikers alike due to the raffle for the new Fat Boy and the fact that the cost of the party entrance is zero dollars—a biker’s favorite rate.
While there was a country concert later in the day in downtown Rockford sponsored by Kegel, there was also music available at the Biker Jam
with The Lost Boyzz and the Red Neck Romeos cranking out the sounds. While I was paying attention to the Harley execs the bike games were going on, so I missed some of them, but it sounded like everyone had a good time.
The bike was going to be given away at 4:30 p.m. and I was surprised to see the Harley guys still around talking to customers. I had mentioned to them that I thought they were very hospitable to give up their Saturday for the event, and they all mentioned that they were having a good time and enjoyed the party. Before the bike was given away and some poker run prizes were awarded, the Harley execs presented the Kegels with a special award from The Motor Company congratulating them on being the oldest family-owned dealership in the world. As Karl mentioned at an earlier H.O.G. meeting, they felt like they were the third Motor Company family members after the Harleys and the Davidsons, and I guess they were right.
After the drawing for the bike, riders lined up to head downtown for the Country Throwdown and said farewell to the Biker Jam for this year and welcomed the start of the next 100 years. Later in the week Karl headed out on a solo trip to Anchorage, Alaska, to relax after a busy year. 4