I had more than a handful of people asking for a report back of Harley-Davidson’s 115th Anniversary celebration. Many people were curious as to how the event would be received, whether there would be resentment and unrest due to the current political climate and the recent manufacturing decisions announced by The Motor Co. That simply wasn’t the case. Motorcyclists from all over the world were in attendance to celebrate the brand and didn’t seem to let the recent news dampen their spirits when it came time to party.

Harley-Davidson’s 115th Anniversary Celebration

This dynamic hill climber was a gift from the Davidson family to all Harley-Davidson enthusiasts to commemorate their lifelong association and shared passion.

The Harley-Davidson Museum was the base of operations for H-D’s 115th’s activities – stacked with plenty of vendors, new model displays, custom bike showcases and more. Not to mention the museum itself which is an absolutely fantastic display of the history of motorcycling regardless of whether you’re a member of the Harley faithful or not. One could spend hours on end taking in all of the artifacts.

The five-day celebration kicked off officially Wednesday evening with an opening ceremony held at Veterans Park near downtown Milwaukee. Davidsons young and old were there to usher in the ceremonies with museum curator Bill Davidson speaking and welcoming his brother Michael, daughter Kara, sister Karen, and mother and father, who hardly need an introduction, Willie G – grandson of Harley-Davidson co-founder William A Davidson, and Willie’s wife, Nancy Davidson.

Harley-Davidson’s 115th Anniversary Celebration

The 2020 Harley-Davidson Livewire. More pictures of the Livewire are available in the gallery below.

We were fortunate enough to spend the following morning checking out a “design evaluation vehicle” version of Harley-Davidson’s Livewire electric motorcycle. Design evaluation vehicle mostly means the bike isn’t quite to production, but should be very similar. The Livewire looks similar to the model the Dukester rode in 2014, though Harley insists there are zero parts carried over from the previous model. We also learned during the Livewire presentation that Alta Motors and Harley-Davidson’s relationship will be coming to an end once the current contract runs out this year. H-D was especially particular to mention no Alta-derived or collaborated tech was used on the 2020 Livewire. Expect to see the Harley-Davidson Livewire electric bike rolling out this time next year.

Harley-Davidson’s 115th Anniversary Celebration

Matt Levatich doing whatever he wants.

Checking out Harley’s new electric motorcycle was exciting until the moment we learned we couldn’t sit on it or ride it, though Harley-Davidson’s CEO, Matthew Levatich, would be riding the motorcycle in Sunday’s parade. Our asses weren’t worthy, apparently.

After acquiring one of a limited number of FXDRs, we pointed our 19-inch forged aluminum front wheel toward the Pilgrim Road Powertrain Operations facility to go see how the Milwaukee Eight and Sportster engines are made.

Harley-Davidson’s 115th Anniversary Celebration

The Pilgrim Road facility spans 912,000 square feet resting on a 63-acre campus and was originally built by Briggs and Stratton in 1979. Harley acquired the facility in 1996. Nearly 1,000 employees work at Pilgrim Road and crank out nearly 200,000 Harley-Davidson engines a year. It was interesting to see the automation of the facility. Harley told us there were nearly 1,000 workers, though we only saw a handful as robotic arms were doing most of the work moving, machining, and even measuring engine components.

Harley-Davidson’s 115th Anniversary Celebration

200,000 engines per year leave the Pilgrim Road facility headed toward final assembly in York, PA.

Once we wrapped up our factory tour, we headed back to Milwaukee for dinner at the Iron Horse Hotel, a motorcycle-themed four-diamond hotel just across the bridge from the museum. After dinner, we would be heading back to the museum for a concert. As we walked over the bridge after dinner, we saw it had been lined on both sides and down the middle with motorcycles. Milwaukee does a good job of letting H-D take over the town for these shindigs.

Harley-Davidson’s 115th Anniversary Celebration

Hairball!

The lead singer of the band Hairball did six or seven costume swaps from Prince to Alice Cooper, and did solid impressions of each legendary rocker might I add. We made a quick visit by Brady street, the unofficial biker row, before heading back to our hotel to get some sleep for the next action-packed day.

Harley-Davidson’s 115th Anniversary Celebration

The board track display was eye-catching to say the least and does a great job of showcasing how banked some of the tracks were.

The next morning I made my intentions clear with the rest of the crew, I was planning to spend however much time I felt necessary in the Harley-Davidson Museum. The amount of history, motorcycles, and displays crammed into the museum can take hours to look through and it’s one of those places where you can walk through again the next day and realize you didn’t see it all. One of the highlights of the entire visit to Milwaukee, for sure.

Harley-Davidson’s 115th Anniversary Celebration

The Flat Out Friday races for the evening were held in the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena. We saw racing from 50cc rigid frame trail bikes, to racy Super Hooligan rides and everything you could imagine in between, and some you couldn’t. If you’re curious, you can check out the entire three hours of racing here.

Harley-Davidson’s 115th Anniversary Celebration

Hunter Howell’s mono-wheel creation was entertaining to watch making its way around the track

Flat Out Friday was a showcase of light-hearted casual racing of all types. The highlight of the evening was watching 78-year-old Chuck Dickinson flying around the track in his Evel Knievel-esque leathers to take the race win in the Brakeless main event.

Harley-Davidson’s 115th Anniversary Celebration

Bummer the Hillclimb was rained out, but there was still some action prior to them pulling the plug. Photo courtesy of HD.

Saturday’s two events were the most anticipated for me, the Harley-Davidson Hillclimb and the Bradford Beach Brawl racing on the shores of Milwaukee Bay on Lake Michigan. Unfortunately, our ride north to the Hillclimb was thwarted by rain which eventually caused the Hillclimb to be canceled. Bummer. Though it was raining in Milwaukee for a good portion of the day, the clouds opened up to blue skies and perfect weather for the beach racing later in the afternoon.

Harley-Davidson’s 115th Anniversary Celebration

The Bradford Beach Crawl was an amazing event with all types of bikes being raced right on the sand of the Milwaukee Bay.

The Bradford Beach Brawl ended up being the most exciting event I was able to attend the entire weekend. The event was presented by the folks who run New Jersey’s Race of Gentlemen, who brought with them a level of experience in throwing these events that, coupled with H-D’s pull in its hometown, ended up being a fantastic afternoon of racing on the sand. Check out the entire event here

Of course, all good things must come to an end, and as the festivities wrapped up Sunday with a massive parade, I was just starting a journey of my own, heading south before making the long haul out west onboard Harley’s trickest of tourers, the CVO Limited. Harley-Davidson’s 115th Anniversary was a fantastic event to have been a part of. There’s really nothing like being in the iconic brand’s hometown for an event like this with enthusiasts traveling in from all over the world. You really had to be there.