The push is on for Harley-Davidson 110th readiness
Milwaukee Harley-Davidson pushes the boundaries when it comes to adult entertainment, and for the Harley-Davidson 110th anniversary party the dealership will have a “swim up” bar with bikini-clad women serving drinks to guests around an above-ground pool.
Then there’s the outdoor cigar bar, with couches, that’s in the works for the Labor Day weekend event, and a $250,000 pavilion the dealership is building for music and wet T-shirt contests.
“It’s definitely a lot of money, but we only get to showcase Harley-Davidson and our dealership to the world like this once every five years,” said Milwaukee Harley-Davidson owner Chaz Hastings.
Since last summer, the motorcycle company has been promoting its worldwide 110th anniversary events that culminate with a Labor Day weekend party on Milwaukee’s lakefront that’s expected to attract more than 100,000 people.
Harley-Davidson is the organizer and star attraction of its anniversary events. But this time around, area Harley dealerships have planned bigger and more elaborate parties to pull bikers into their camps and, hopefully, get them to spend some money there.
The dealerships have scheduled their annual Milwaukee Rally to coincide with the Harley-Davidson 110th anniversary bash — resulting in a week of special events.
House of Harley-Davidson, on Layton Ave., is setting up a clothing store tent that will cover two-thirds of the parking lot, is tall enough to go over the trees, and is strong enough to hang an 800-pound motorcycle from the beams.
The dealership will have 125 to 150 vendors, live music day and night, and 1970s television stars Erik Estrada (Ponch from the TV show “CHiPs”) and Randolph Mantooth (Johnny Gage from the TV show “Emergency”) leading charity group rides.
House of Harley will have a Harlista motorcycle show competition, with bikes from Latin American riders; a women riders day; and law enforcement and firefighter days as part of its events on four blocks of Layton Ave., between 60th and 64th streets, that will be blocked off from traffic.
The dealership will have an air-conditioned food court tent and wireless Internet service throughout its property. The Greenfield School District changed its school-year calendar by three days to accommodate some of the dealership’s needs for parking and entertainment space.
“With the size of this event, and the street being closed, I don’t think any Harley rider will leave Milwaukee without seeing House of Harley two or three times,” said dealership President John Schaller.
All of the dealership’s concerts are free and the charity rides cost $25.
House of Harley has hired more than 200 people for the event, in addition to regular staff working that week. Hopefully, Schaller said, the dealership will break even on the tens of thousands of dollars it’s spending on entertainment.
Some of the revenue could come months later, when someone who had a good time at the party returns to the dealership for a motorcycle and accessories. Some people come to Milwaukee from all over the country to buy their Harley-Davidson at a local dealership and tour the factory and company museum.
“With the Internet, we have more reason to be visible to a world audience because we can sell products to a world audience,” Schaller said
The dealership will have a large vendor mall and more of a family-friendly atmosphere than the R-rated Milwaukee Harley-Davidson.
Suburban Harley has remodeled its store, one of the largest in Wisconsin, for the 110th celebration and is bringing on extra staff members who are knowledgeable about motorcycles, parts and accessories.
None of the dealerships has a backup date for their parties in case of foul weather.
“If it rains, you deal with it. I remember being part of a motorcycle rally where it rained for three days. And for a guy who doesn’t like getting his bike dirty, I rode in the rain,” said Todd Berlin, the dealership’s sales manager.
Suburban Harley won’t have celebrities, partly because the names that would attract the biggest crowds would cost too much.
“I would love to have Peter Fonda come here, but in reality the draw we have is our vendor mall,” Berlin said.
Milwaukee Harley-Davidson will have its motorcycle service department open 24 hours during the Harley-Davidson 110th anniversary celebration.
“We will sell nearly all of our bikes,” Hastings said.
The dealership will host group rides and has groups of motorcyclists coming from Germany, Australia and Indonesia.
Some of the foreign visitors ship their motorcycles here to ride, while others rent bikes. Some stay awhile, touring the United States, while others come just for the parties.
Food, music, fashion shows
Hal’s Harley-Davidson, in New Berlin, will have the band Grand Funk Railroad on Sept. 1. The dealership also will have the Ives Brothers Wall of Death motorcycle stunts team.
Wisconsin Harley-Davidson, in Oconomowoc, will have three music stages, lots of food and vendors, and beer gardens for its parties covering about 7 acres at I-94 and Highway 67.
Former Green Bay Packers defensive lineman Santana Dotson and “Sons of Anarchy” television star Theo Rossi will be guest celebrities at the dealership.
Wisconsin Harley-Davidson is having a fashion show, coordinated by Ms. Wisconsin Kj Lyn, and charity breakfasts.
“Especially after the fashion show, we know there are going to be a lot of people who want to buy what they see on the runway,” said Dianne Crowley, the dealership’s marketing and events manager.
During Harley-Davidson’s 105th anniversary, the Oconomowoc dealership had about 20,000 people a day coming to its parties.
“This is going to be bigger than the 105th” celebration, Crowley said, adding that the dealership will use a farm field for parking, and its party tents will be visible from the interstate.
Harley-Davidson grades the performance of dealerships, which are independent businesses, in areas such as customer satisfaction. The dealerships aren’t supposed to be cookie-cutter operations that all look alike.
That said, there’s something for everyone.
“If I wanted a strip club, I would go to Milwaukee,” Berlin said. “But I have been married 21 years and do just fine when I go home.”