Parade of Harleys brings out Milwaukee’s best and the occasional celebrity
Riding in my second anniversary parade for the 105th Anniversary reminded of something very special about both Harley-Davidson and the city it calls home.
As my wife Janice and I rode my 1989 Electra Glide Classic through the streets of Milwaukee with about 7,500 other bikes, we were struck by the diversity of the thousands of enthusiastic Harley fans lining the way. Whether it was age, gender, race or even religion, people representing just about every group you can imagine cheered us on.
The Harley parade route in Milwaukee started at Miller Park, home of the Milwaukee Brewers, which sits close to a quiet residential neighborhood, a few commercial areas and a national veterans cemetery. We rode past the Marquette University campus and then through downtown Milwaukee to the Lakefront.
The crowd’s smiling faces and heartfelt cheers were punctuated by the roar of Harley engines and beeping of motorcycle horns. It was especially satisfying to see the large numbers of children and their genuine excitement for this parade.
As much as I like to see kids enjoy the parade, one quick recommendation to riders next time is not to throw candy. Besides attracting small children into the path of bikes (who can blame them), it frankly distracts from a parade that doesn’t need distracting. I was dodging kids almost the whole route due to the candy flying from the bike in front of me until I pulled ahead of them toward the end.
It was also a sight to see so many handmade banners and signs welcoming riders back to Harley’s hometown. One of the most notable was a huge “Jesus Saves” banner designed like the famous Harley Bar & Shield logo. I figure our trademark enforcers would be smart to let that one slide.
As for the parade itself, there was a bike, rider and/or passenger for just about every category and character imaginable. There were MDA fundraisers, H.O.G. members, Harley dealers and employees, loyal enthusiasts, dogs or Santa Claus (he must have been hot) among the riders and bikes from Sportsters to cool customs to big baggers.
Actor Robert Patrick was probably the highest profile celeb in the parade staging area. Patrick, best known for his role of the cyborg cop in “Terminator 2,” has also done excellent work in “Walk the Line,” “The Sopranos” and the “The X-Files.” That didn’t matter much to many of the parade cops who enjoyed getting their picture taken with Patrick, who remains unmistakable for his famous T-1000 role of almost 20 years ago.
Patrick also sported a vest from the Boozefighters motorcycle club, one of the first American motorcycle clubs formed after World War II and known for its participation in the Hollister Rally “riot” incident in 1947, which is believed to be the basis for the “Wild Ones” movie. Patrick was joined by Danny Trejo, one of Hollywood’s most recognizable Hispanic character actors and Donal Logue of "Ghost Rider."
We’ll just have to see if tonight’s Bruce Springsteen concert can top 7,500 Harleys parading through the streets of Milwaukee on a perfect late summer day.