Downtown revs up for Harley fest

Tribune Staff

Milwaukee is poised to go hog wild this holiday weekend with Harley-Davidson’s 100th Anniversary Celebration, expected to bring nearly 350,000 people to the area in four days.

The four-day birthday bash for the motorcycle giant will occur along the lakefront with a number of special events and musical performances by artists including Joan Jett and The Blackhearts, Poison, Eddie Money, Styx, REO Speedwagon and Billy Idol. An undisclosed artist will perform Sunday, Aug. 31.

The event could draw 150,000 attendees for ticketed events throughout the four days, and as many 250,000 people on Sunday, the last day of the celebration, according to Vanessa Welter, director of public relations for the Greater Milwaukee Convention and Visitor’s Bureau.

Welter said 150,000 tickets have been sold thus far for the surprise concert on Sunday, but as many as 100,000 additional people could show up throughout the day. Only those who have purchased tickets will gain access to the event.

Not only will Harley-Davidson’s birthday create an increase in the number of people in the city, but will also be a major economic boom for both the city and state.

The greater Milwaukee area is expected to take in $37 million, and the state is expected to make $132 million, Welter said.

The event is also expected to help Milwaukee tourism. Harley enthusiasts from as far away as Australia are expected to take part in the celebration.

“It’s an opportunity for Milwaukee to make a great impact on international and nations visitors,” said Wendy Haase, tourism public relations manager for GMCVB. “It’s an opportunity to really put our best foot forward and showcase what a great city we have.”

Several Harley-Davidson dealerships are pitching in to commemorate the event.

The Milwaukee Harley-Davidson Buell store, 11310 Silver Spring Road, has held extended hours the entire week, said office manager and event coordinator Maggie McCarthy. McCarthy said over two dozen national and local vendors are selling Harley equipment and paraphinelia this week in her store’s parking lot.

“It’s a good mix of dealer-type products and services here,” she said. “Our parking lot is full, so that’s a good sign.”

She said the 100th Anniversary Celebration is not only good for business, but good for the city as well.

“It’s going to bring out the people who have never had any interest in Harley-Davidson,” she said. “I think it’s going to be positive.”

For a complete list of events visit Several streets and freeway exits will also be closed periodically throughout the four days. For a complete list of street closings see