An army of black leather- and denim-wearing bikers rumbled through the city streets Saturday, capping nearly a week of celebrating the 95th anniversary of motorcycle maker Harley-Davidson.
"It's breathtaking," said Milwaukee insurance salesman Jim Moeckler as he waited to join the parade. "Every time I look at these bikes that go by, it makes me choke up."At least 50,000 bikers lined up for the parade, a river of steel, rubber, iron and leather that stretched more than 25 blocks into Milwaukee's suburbs. Most bikers killed time by revving up their motorcycles with a rumble that could be heard for miles.
The parade, led by "Tonight Show" host Jay Leno, was the culmination of activities that brought more than 100,000 motorcycle enthusiasts from all over the world to the birthplace and headquarters of Harley-Davidson.
The motorcade snaked through the streets and ended at a city park on the shores of Lake Michigan, where a festival offering beer, rock 'n' roll and an antique Harley exhibit waited for riders.
Alongside Leno was Gov. Tommy Thompson, who rode a Harley-Davidson police bike. Other celebrities also showed up, including Peter Fonda, whose "Easy Rider" movie nearly 30 years ago featured a motorcycle trip across America.
Many riders were middle-aged men who are doctors, lawyers and business executives during the week but who don leather and denim on the weekends to cut loose from the daily grind.
"You get to pretend to be a kind of bad guy, but you're not really," said Gary Glojek, an attorney and municipal judge in Pewaukee.