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The Harley Davidson Experience

A week of activities, and exhibits, on Milwaukee's Lakefront
The Open Air Displays
The Open Road Traveling Show

    For a week, the western shores of Lake Michigan at Milwaukee became The Harley Davidson Experience. There were stages, vendors, and plenty of food (not to mention beer), set up on the grass around the old Coast Guard station. The centerpiece of the experience was housed underneath three huge circus style tents. The Lakefront was choked with motorcycles, and filled with people. A bit south of the experience was the site of the upcoming final concert, to be given Sunday night. Further south, past the Art Center (which was hosting a special collection of Rolling Sculpture) at the Summerfest grounds, was the site of the official Birthday Bash.
    The Harley Davidson Experience was semi free. Large sections were on display outside, and available to the public, as were the musical acts. To get into any of the tent exhibits required an orange pass. The tents housed the traveling exhibits which were at the heart of the Harley Davidson 100th Anniversary Open Road Show. These were divided up into the Machine tent, the Ride tent, and the Journey tent.
    Together, the tents of the traveling road show, the open air show, the party going on to the south, and the general ambiance of the Lakefront, drew huge numbers of people, and turned the area in to a gigantic motorcycle parking lot, and gathering of tourists, motorcycle fans, and curious onlookers. The inescapable low rumble of Milwaukee V-Twin power was a constant companion underscoring everything ,  just below the threshold of awareness. These sounds were felt as much as they were heard. The whole lakefront really was a feast for the senses, with none left out. The eyes, ears, nose, and touch down to the visceral level , were all provided with plenty of stimulation, as was the sense of wonder.
    These events, along with those on the Summerfest grounds, ran Thursday, Friday and Saturday. The final concert took place on Sunday, and other events around town, including those at the Harley plants, dealerships, assorted HOG events, and at the Art Center, went on all week. When it was all over, everyone had Monday (Labor Day) to rest up. Most of the celebrants left Monday afternoon, having spent the day sleeping rather late. Some toured the town a bit, seeing some of Milwaukee, while others had a good meal, relaxed, and got ready for the trip home. Like most locals, I relaxed, watched the bikers, and recovered a bit from the hectic activities of the previous week. As far as can be told, a good time was had by all. I can hardly wait for the next big bash, the 105th to be held in 2008.

The Open Air Displays (Free for all)
    No ticket was required for admission to the open air events, which pretty much spilled out across the mid portion of Milwaukee's lakefront. Things resembled a cross between a picnic, a carnival, an outdoor concert, and a bike show. There were food vendors galore, along with the usual bike show vendors, selling clothes, performance gear, travel gear, jewelry, and anything else even remotely related to motorcycling.
    For those without tickets, and gate passes, this was a good way to join in the festivities, enjoy some food, and drink, gawk at all of the items on display, as well as all of the visitors, and have a generally good time down at the lake. Harley was fairly generous for this free show, and has put a number of vintage, unusual, and new motorcycles on display in the park. Ford Motor Company, as the nation's oldest car maker, has also joined in the celebration, and has made available a number of vintage vehicles, as well as some commemorative Ford trucks. A stage was set up, and there is entertainment, mostly local bands, which went on well into the night. Still, it was a very nice outdoor event, and was a sort of mini version of the large party being thrown at the Summerfest grounds.
The Crowds
The display bikes
The Bikes

The Open Road Traveling tent show
(Ticket Required)
    This was the Harley Davidson Traveling Road Show, come home to roost. This show played all over the world for months, as a sort of a pre birthday celebration. Included in the show were the exhibits, and an assortment of motorcycle events, capped off by a nightly concert. The show appeared at the following locations:
Atlanta, July 20-21, 2002
Baltimore, August 16-18, 2002 Los Angeles Sept 6-8, 2002
Toronto Sept 28-29, 2002
Dallas Oct 26-27, 2002
Sydney March 15-16, 2003
Tokyo April 26-27, 2003
Barcelona June 27-29, 2003
Hamburg July 25-27, 2003
Harley hopes to construct a museum in the downtown area (where the Park Freeway had formerly been) to house the collection permanently. The collection contains classic and historical bikes, including some of the first ever produced, as well as military bikes (including the Harley opposed twin), trikes, motorcycles of celebrities (including, of course, Elvis), and some items from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. There are also bit of vintage motorcycle clothing, old advertisements, and a great movie montage of motorcycle scenes.
    There is also a display of the various models of Harley V-Twin engines, from the first production models, to the current offerings. Engine cut outs, as well as internal parts are shown, along with a collection of gas tanks, featuring the various tank graphics which Harley has applied over the decades. A huge photo collection is included in the exhibit, along with a collection of vintage motorcycle toys, film loops of riders experiences, and other assorted videos. There is much more, of course, but who can remember it all?
The Machine Exhibits (Machine)
A Gallery of Harley Engines (Machine)
The Bikes (Machine)
The Journey and Culture exhibits

More Bikes (Ride)