2023 Harley-Davidson Homecoming Festival

Thousands of riders from around the world rumble into Milwaukee to celebrate 120 years of Harley-Davidson

By Tricia Szulewski, Editor

Harley-Davidson Homecoming Festival

Tens of thousands of riders and Harley-Davidson fans from around the world descended on the city of Milwaukee and surrounding towns in Wisconsin from July 13-16 celebrating its 120-year anniversary. The Harley-Davidson Homecoming Festival brought riders together for four days of music, motorcycling, charity, and fun in many forms.

Harley-Davidson Homecoming
Traffic around Milwaukee roared with Harleys that had come in from almost every country around the world. More than 73,000 bikes lined the Harley-Davidson Museum grounds and sixth street during the four day festival.
Harley-Davidson Homecoming
The Museum was a central point for many of the event’s festivities. There was a bike night, custom bikes, museum tours, women-led workshops, live bands, food trucks, and more. In addition, six local dealerships hosted events and entertainment throughout the Festival.

2023 CVO Road Glide and Street Glide Launch

I was one of the lucky 45 members of the media (only one of three women!) to be invited to the global press launch of the brand-new 2023 CVO Street Glide and Road Glide during the event. Watch WomenRidersNow.com (WRN) in coming weeks for my full review of these amazing new baggers.

Harley-Davidson CVO press intro Kyle Wyman Travis Wyman Cody Wyman
Harley-Davidson’s King of the Baggers champions Kyle, Cody, and Travis Wyman lent a hand for the CVO launch. In fact, my group was led by Kyle himself! How many people can say that they’ve followed a racing champion on a 150-mile ride?
2023 Harley-Davidson CVO Street Glide woman rider
Heading north from Milwaukee, journalists tested the new CVOs along Lake Michigan, through densely wooded state parks, and past lots of farmland. Wisconsin is a lovely place to ride a motorcycle with plenty to see and experience. I enjoyed every minute aboard this CVO Street Glide Dark Platinum with Pinstripe.
Harley-Davidson Home coming woman rider CVO Road Glide
Demo rides of all the new CVOs, 2023 Harley lineup, and Livewire were a big draw during the Homecoming. This woman is testing the 2023 CVO Road Glide in the Whiskey Neat/Raven Metallic color.

Harley-Davidson Homecoming Women’s Ride

Every Harley anniversary event has some women-specific events. This year’s women’s ride began at the Harley-Davidson Museum on Saturday morning. About 250 registered riders took to the streets raising $6,100 for the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.

Harley-Davidson Homecoming womens ride
The women’s ride included plenty of male support this year, including a heavy motor officer presence.
Harley-Davidson Homecoming Milwaukee motor cops
The officers were super friendly and kept the event rolling along without incident.
Harley-Davidson Homecoming pink bike woman rider
This lovely lady on her pink Street Glide sure makes a statement!

Real Deal Revolution Workshops

Outside the Harley-Davidson Museum, Real Deal Workshops were set up courtesy of the Jessi Combs Foundation. Stations were set up to offer the opportunity to try welding, jewelry making, leatherworking, and pinstriping. The late Jessi Combs started The Real Deal Revolution with Theresa Contreras to encourage and support young women in the trades.

Harley-Davidson Homecoming Real Deal Workshop Emily Dury
Emily Dury poses with me outside her welding booth, in front of her cool custom Harley.
Harley-Davidson Homecoming Emily Dury welding
Emily was all set up to offer 45-minute welding sessions. Participants made cute little mini motorcycles from welding together a few bolts, nuts, and wire.

New Harley-Davidson Museum Displays Featuring Women

Inside the Harley Museum, I was happy to see some new displays honoring women in motorcycling. Compared to my visit to the museum last year, it’s clear there has been an intentional effort to feature more women and minorities in many of the installations. 

After ascending the stairs to the first main hall, I was delighted by a display case honoring motorcycling pioneer Jo Giovanonni who passed in 2022.

Harley-Davidson Museum Jo Giovanonni
Jo Giovanonni co-founded Harley Women magazine in 1985, the first magazine dedicated to women riders, and the foundation to what eventually evolved into WomenRidersNow.com.
Harley-Davidson Museum
The next display, prominently positioned near the start of the amazing collection of archives, features an early pioneering woman in motorcycling, Lillian Hauerwas. She was one of the first members—and the only woman—of the Milwaukee Motorcycle Club.

I was also really excited to see the new display with the Mama Tried custom motorcycles when I found the bike built by the vintage racing and customizing team Jenny and Eric Bass of Bass Cycles.

Harley-Davidson Museum Mama Tried Bass Cycles
Jenny and Eric Bass built this kickass custom for the special H-D Museum display featuring local builders’ works of art.
Harley-Davidson Museum Archives
Being allowed special access to the Harley-Davidson Museum archives, my wife Mary and I got a close look at some of the cool machines that are part of the Museum’s extensive collection but aren’t on display at the moment.

Harley-Davidson Homecoming Music and Entertainment

Veterans Park set the scene for the main stage headliners where more than 80,000 spectators gathered. Greenday, Foo Fighters, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, and Abby Jeanne were among the performers Friday and Saturday. In addition, Nitro Circus performed freestyle motocross shows. And the Ives Brothers Wall of Death and Ball of Steel stunt riders offered great entertainment.

Harley-Davidson Homecoming concert
With threats of rain looming on Friday, the weather held out for the crowd gathered to rock out at Veterans Park. You can see here, though, how the smoke from the Canadian wildfires impacted visibility.
Harley-Davidson Homecoming Greenday
Greenday was the headliner for Friday night’s show.
Harley-Davidson Homecoming Foo Fighters
And Foo Fighters rocked the stage on Saturday night.
Harley-Davidson Homecoming Nitro Circus
You didn’t need a front row seat at the lakeside park to see the high-flying acts performed by Nitro Circus.

Harley-Davidson Powertrain Plant Tours

The Harley-Davidson Powertrain Operations in Milwaukee suburb, Menomonee Falls, hosted demos of 2023 Harley-Davidson motorcycles, factory tours, and Police Skills Riding Demonstrations. Inside the 912,000 square-foot plant, I enjoyed a first-hand look at all the state-of-the-art technology that puts Harley-Davidson motorcycles together. A large section of the plant is also now dedicated to EV battery and electric motorcycle assembly.

Harley-Davidson Powertrain plant
Inside the 60-acre powertrain facility, there is everything from powder coating and painting, to aluminum machining of heads, crankcases, cylinders, inner primaries, and more. Steel machining includes gears and shafts. There are areas for leak-testing, heat treating, and casting impregnating. It is truly impressive.

As part of the CVO media launch, journalists were given a very special (and rare) private tour of Harley’s Product Development Center in nearby Wauwatosa. We were shuffled in small groups to several really cool areas that we weren’t allowed to photograph ourselves. Again, the state-of-the-art technology was impressive in each of the areas we toured.

I have to wonder what was behind all the doors and covers we weren’t allowed to see. Luckily, Harley did supply us with these photos that show some of the most interesting rooms we toured.

Harley-Davidson Powertrain plant
Computerized equipment that costs more than a few mansions in Beverly Hills has allowed techs to dial in every aspect of the engine output. Behind the glass window, we watched the new CVO engine being tested in a simulator where the tech could make almost any type of adjustment to simulate riding conditions, air temperature, speed, and much more. It sounded like a dyno run, but was constant, only fluctuating when the tech made an adjustment.
Harley-Davidson sound testing lab
And this room contained the full vehicle simulator. Putting the bike on this machine puts it through the rigors of what it would encounter on the road. It was bouncing, shaking, and vibrating. This test is now able to be done with the help of computers, and is basically the “last check” for parts that have gone thoroughly through the development process.

Meet the Davidsons and SEO Jochen Zeitz

Harley-Davison 120th Homecoming Festival Karen Davidson, Bill Davidson, SEO
A special private media event was held with Harley-Davidson CEO Jochen Zeitz and the founder’s grandchildren, Bill and Karen Davidson. The trio announced that while these momentous anniversary festivals will continue in years to come, we can also look forward to a regular Milwaukee Harley Homecoming Festival every year.

Mark your calendars! Next year’s Harley-Davidson Homecoming event is scheduled to take place in Milwaukee from July 25-28, 2024.

Visit Harley-Davidson’s event page here for more information.

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