MILWAUKEE, AUG. 29-SEPT. 2–During the years between Harley-Davidson’s quinquennial anniversary celebrations, the Harley-Davidson dealers of Metro Milwaukee host the Milwaukee Rally, where each participating dealership offers parties, entertainment, vendors—basically a big multi-site festival celebrating everything Harley. It’s considered the Midwest’s largest free motorcycle rally, and this year the participating dealerships really outdid themselves. The rally was expanded to six days, and each dealership went all out to entertain the crowds in town for The Motor Company’s 110th anniversary festivities.
This year’s Milwaukee Rally took place at four locations: Suburban Motors Harley-Davidson, Hal’s Harley-Davidson, Milwaukee Harley-Davidson and House of Harley-Davidson. The rally also offered a Passport Program; by picking up a Miller High Life passport card at the Milwaukee Rally tent at any of the three 110th anniversary street parties and getting it stamped at any three participating bars or restaurants, entrants were eligible to win one of three $1,000 gift certificates from one of the four Harley dealers each night.
The first rally venue I visited was Suburban Motors H-D in Thiensville, about 17 miles north of the Harley-Davidson Museum. Suburban had cleared out their showroom for huge sales on merchandise, while all their new and used bikes were displayed outside in front of the dealership. A vendor mall had taken over the parking lot, featuring lots of food and merchandise stalls. Drag Specialties brought their big rig, and other prominent manufacturers such as Metzeler Tires, Cobra exhaust, Legend Air Suspension, Klock Werks, Ride Wright Wheels, Dakota Digital, Küryakyn, Powerlet and Battistini’s USA, had their products on display. Kool Trikes from Juneau, Wisconsin, had a selection of their trikes on hand, and many other local vendors were selling their wares.
Midway through the afternoon, a rainstorm swept through the area, cooling things off a bit. Weather radar indicated that the storm was headed toward Milwaukee, so instead of chancing getting caught in a downpour, we watched several bands perform a nice selection of country and bluegrass tunes under a big circus-style tent. When the weather finally cleared, I headed southwest for the 20-minute ride to Milwaukee Harley-Davidson.
It was after 5:00 p.m. when I arrived, and the place was still jammed even after the big rain. Milwaukee H-D shares a huge parking lot with several other businesses, and surrounding the lot were scores of vendors. Driving home the point that Milwaukee is most definitely a beer town, this dealership offers something none of the others had: King Bong, a world-record beer bong. This giant 144-person beer-guzzling contraption was built five years ago for Harley’s 105th anniversary. Although the bong was idle while I was there, it sure was a sight to remember. And one that I wish I could forget, as it smacked of frat-boy antics. We riders are all a little more mature than that, aren’t we?
A much more appealing attraction was Milwaukee Ink, a tattoo and piercing shop within the dealership itself. The shop reopened under new ownership just a few months prior, and there you could get a free tattoo from noon to 2:00 p.m. each day of the rally. There were about 20 choices of pre-designed flash commemorating Harley’s 115th anniversary. If I hadn’t gotten there so late, I’d now be sporting a brand-new Bar & Shield inked onto that small blank space on the back of my left arm.
This dealership was open 24 hours a day during the rally, and there were plenty of other activities to keep customers occupied. On one side of the parking lot was a stage for live music, and closer to the dealership was a huge pavilion that housed bands and wet T-shirt contests. Also on the schedule was mud wrestling, stunt shows, burnouts and a bikini bike wash, plus there were several girls festooned with body paint riding around the grounds on a beer cart.
Milwaukee H-D was where I learned about the Run for Cash rally package. For $10, each entrant got a Run for Cash playing card and a 3′ x 5′ rally flag. The VIP package for $29.95 earned additional goodies—2013 rally T-shirt, pin, patch, rocker and embroidered wall hanging. The rules required riders to visit each of the four rally venues, plus the Harley-Davidson Museum, and get their playing cards stamped to be eligible for cash and other prizes. Each participant had four days to visit the five locations to be eligible for the prize drawing. This wasn’t at all a daunting task as the complete route of about 45 miles of could easily be done in a single day.
Of course, that didn’t leave much time to enjoy the festivities at each location, so most folks spread the route throughout the rally week. I left Milwaukee H-D so late on Friday that I didn’t get to House of Harley until the next afternoon. House of Harley is about nine miles southwest of the museum, and when I got close, I could see that the eight blocks of Layton Avenue between 60th and 68th Streets were closed down for the dealership’s huge block party. There were over 100 merchandise vendors set up including top-names like Mustang Seats, Cycle Sounds, Cycle Solutions and Küryakyn, as well as a sizable food court. House of Harley had a different theme for each of the six days, with Wednesday designated as Military Recognition Day, followed by days for law enforcement, firefighters and women riders. It was Casa de Harley-Harlista Day when I was there, and the rally week closed with Milwaukee Iron Day. Various theme-related rides and activities took place on each of the days, culminating on Sunday with a ride to Miller Park to watch the Brewers take on the Pittsburgh Pirates. I happened to arrive just in time for the International Bikini Team competition, which seemed to be a real crowd pleaser. I spent the entire afternoon there, and still didn’t see everything the dealership had on tap.
Since I had to leave for home the next morning, I never did make it to Hal’s Harley-Davidson in New Berlin; 12 miles west of the museum. I’m told that Hal’s had nine acres of vendors, live music, stunt shows and Wall of Death riders and a Sunday night concert featuring Grand Funk Railroad. I really should’ve planned my time in Milwaukee a little better, but there’s always next year. The 2014 dates will be August 28 through September 1. Check www.milwaukeerally.com for more information.