My first love of this event would have to be the entertainment. I spent three nights in a row at the Henry Maier Festival Park (Summerfest Grounds) seeing some legendary rockers: ZZ Top, Aerosmith, Dropkick Murphys, Joan Jett, Cheap Trick, Brett Michaels, Elvin Bishop and, of course, we caught the amazing surprise of Dave Grohl and Taylor Hawkins (Foo Fighters) playing with Hawkins' jam buddies, Chevy Metal. Man, when Joan Jett joined on 'em on stage for the Grand Finale covering The Stones' "Bitch," I almost fainted.
I haven't enjoyed a rock and roll moment that much since, well ... ever. "Awesome" gets used too much these days, but there's no other word that describes it better.
Then there's the bikes and bikers -- the reason this every five year event even exists (besides Harley-Davidson, that is). If you've been out and about in downtown Milwaukee anytime in the past 3 days, you've had to catch yourself thinking, "Can you believe this?!" I mean, it is a SEA of motorcycles. They line up along every street for miles and miles. And if you've seen the parking lot outside of the Festival Park, you know what an eyeful of steel and chrome that is!
If you know me, you know that my current ride is not a Harley. I have German bike, but one of my favorite things about owning a motorcycle is finding preferred parking spots at nearly every event. Last night, however, I could not find a single spot to park my bike within a half-mile of the entrance of the festival grounds. It was packed with nary an automobile in site. Bike upon bike for blocks and blocks. Parking far away is not bad though, because on the walk to the grounds, I got to walk past the lines of gleaming steel, leather and rubber and gawk and admire along the way.
You know this is true: there's a lot of bikes that look and are cared for better than their owners! ;)
Another super cool part of this event is the sheer number of riders from foreign lands. Walking the grounds, it's hard not to be flummoxed by the amount of Harley-Owners that have made the trip to Milwaukee from Mexico, Guatemala, Colombia, Germany, New Zealand, Australia, Russia and Japan. I've struck up conversations with a few of these groups and welcomed them to Milwaukee. Since I've got friends and coworkers in Guadalajara, I talked to the Guadalajaran group like we were long-time pals. I took a picture of their Harley patch to send to my friends down there.
In the aforementioned group, Seven out of nine rode their cycles from Guadalajara. They rode for 10 days. Man, I put on 260 miles yesterday in a little southeastern Wisconsin circuit and my butt's sore. Guadalajara to Milwaukee for 10 days takes an ass of steel!!
Today's the final day. The festival grounds are now closed, but there's still dealership parties and a street party at the Juneau Avenue manufacturing plant (also the place where Harley-Davidson was born). I doubt this final day will bring the jaw-dropping awe that the previous days did, but if you get the chance, go take a walk along the rows of motorcycles and welcome them back home. While you're at it, find a rider and welcome them to our home, Milwaukee.
Happy 110th birthday, Harley-Davidson. Maybe by the 115th, I tell myself. ;)