Saturday morning started off quiet enough, but it wasn’t long before the roar of engines took over Wisconsin Avenue as about 5,000 motorcyclists rode in the official Harley-Davidson Motor Co. 110th anniversary parade. The Milwaukee-based motorcycle company’s local celebration began Aug. 30 and will end Sept. 1 with a street party on Water Street.
The parade started at Miller Park at 10 a.m. Saturday, made its way through Marquette’s campus and ended at Henry W. Maier Festival Park, Summerfest Grounds. Some Marquette students said they heard about the parade beforehand and planned their day accordingly.
“I’m gonna try to go to the basement of the library so I don’t hear anything,” said Casey O’Hare, a freshman in the College of Arts & Sciences.
A crowd lined Wisconsin Avenue on blankets and lawn chairs to watch the parade. Harley T-shirts and jackets were sported by many in the audience.
As the parade approached, the crowd clapped and cheered. The bikers, most in leather jackets, waved, threw up peace signs and carried flags as they passed. Some leaned over to high-five the crowd while others managed to film themselves with cell phones or cameras attached to their helmets.
Bikers’ headgear ranged from helmets with fake hair to various animal head hats. Some motorcycles were embellished with cheese decals, stuffed animals and all things outlandish.
As the parade went on, more Marquette students came out to see the display.
“I think it’s really cool, the culture of (biking),” said Katie Tolan, a junior in the College of Communication. ”(Harley-Davidson) is something that’s so Milwaukee based.”
The Rev. Karl Voelker, a pastor at Church of the Gesu, lead a pre-parade blessing for safety during the ride this morning at Miller Park.
“Any gathering that brings people together to do good is in God’s will,” Voelker said.
Bikers processed along with Harley-Davidson Owners Group chapters from around the world. Delegations from Canada, Taiwan, Saudi Arabia and others were represented, displaying Harley’s influence around the world. The motorcycle company traveled across the globe during the last year to celebrate the anniversary, but the Milwaukee event is expected to be the largest celebration of the year.