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How and why you should celebrate Harley-Davidson's 115th anniversary

harley davidson homecoming milwaukee 1988

Historically and today, owning a Harley is to be a part of something big. Especially in Milwaukee.

That may be an understatement, but ask anyone who owns a Hog, and they will tell you the same.

People tend to think of motorcycles as synonymous with Milwaukee, specifically for one of the most iconic motorcycle manufacturers in the world and a reigning staple to American culture: Harley-Davidson. Milwaukee remains Harley-Davidson’s home as it looks to welcome hogs from across the U.S. for their 115th anniversary celebration.

Harley-Davidson Motor Company hired their first full-time employee in Milwaukee in 1905, eventually building their six-story headquarters on Juneau Ave. in 1912. Evolving through decades of supplying the military, police and especially racers dating back to William S. Harley’s first motor-bike race in 1901, the company has still maintained household fame for everyday motorcycle enthusiasts.

Attended by over 60,000 people in 1988, Harley-Davidson celebrated its 85th year with a Homecoming in Milwaukee. The number of enthusiasts only continues to climb as Milwaukee saw over 100,000 riders and spectators for their global 110th anniversary celebration.

Riding a bike on a nationwide road trip to Milwaukee has become a pilgrimage for Harley-Davidson owners. This year’s commemoration expects riders from the four corners of the U.S.: San Diego, Tacoma, Portland and Ft. Lauderdale.

These legendary celebrations and rides “home” to Milwaukee express how Harley-Davidson is not just about owning the motorcycle, rather about joining a greater community with a rooted American culture right here in our city.

Check out our list of 15 must-do events below to find where you can join the Hogs for Labor Day weekend.

15 ways to celebrate Harley's 115th anniversary in Milwaukee

Events run from Wednesday, August 29 to Sunday, September 2.

    1. Check out the free kick-off party and Hog 35th Motor Carnival all weekend at Veterans Park with plenty of food and displays. A variety of high-wire motorcycle thrill shows will be featured along with some amusement park attractions, a Wall of Death and a Globe of Death.
    2. See the Record Company at the Harley-Davidson museum for free on Friday.
    3. Come down to Bradford Beach on Friday at 10 a.m. for practice and Saturday at noon for the race to see history in the making. For the first time in 100 years, bikers will tear through sand on Lake Michigan’s shoreline.
    4. Get a ticket for the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena on Friday to see traditional and special class indoor flat track motorcycle racers compete at 7 p.m. Enjoy the pre-race street party with live music and food starting at noon outside the arena.
    5. Go to race or go to watch the Great Lakes Dragaway on Friday at noon to see Harley riders from around the world race side-by-side on the track.
    6. Watch racers ride up the frontside of the Little Switzerlandski hill in Slinger, WI on Saturday at 9 a.m. The competition holds $8,500 in reward.
    7. Visit Milwaukee’s famous Harley-Davidson Museum all weekend at 9 a.m. for an up-close view of Harley history, commemorative tattoos, live music, photography, pinstriping and more. Saturday will feature vintage motorcycle field games and Sunday will conclude the fun with the annual Custom Bike Show.
    8. Check out the birthplaceof Harley-Davidson on Juneau Avenue Wednesday-Saturday at 8 a.m. and test a new 2019 Harley.
    9. See up-close how the iconic engines are made at the Harley-Davidson Powertrain Operations factory on free self-guided tours Thursday-Friday at 9 a.m.
    10. Come to Miller Park on Thursday-Friday at 8 a.m. for preliminary rounds and Saturday at 8 a.m. for the finals of the Police and Civilian Skills Competition as riders maneuver through challenging courses.
    11. If you have never visited, ride through Milwaukee on self-guided tours of Harley's homeland.
    12. Roll through these Milwaukee neighborhoods to join some celebratory parties with tons of food, beverages, music and entertainment:

      • Wednesday-Saturday 6 p.m. Party in the Park - Rotary Performance Pavilion
      • Thursday 5 p.m. Jazz in the Park – Cathedral Square Park
      • Friday-Saturday 12 p.m. Motorcycle Alley
      • Friday-Saturday 4 p.m. Brady Street Experience
      • Friday-Saturday 3 p.m. Milwaukee Motorcycle Film Festival – Oriental Theatre

      • Saturday 12 p.m. Bikes on Broadway - Historic Third Ward Street Party, Catalano Square Stage, Blue Bat Kitchen & Tequilaria/Riverwalk Stage
    13. Get a seat at the American Family Insurance Amphitheater to see Lady Antebellum and Darius Rucker with Russell Dickerson on Saturday at 7 p.m.
    14. Test out different seats for your Harley at Milsco Manufacturing Thursday-Saturday at 9 a.m.
    15. Finally, enjoy the ever anticipated downtown parade on Sunday at 1 p.m.

Dates and times and more information is available on the Harley-Davidson website.