BY ART HALL
I had been aware of the S&S 50th celebration for quite some time but it wasn’t until I reread the website that I realized what a huge event this was going to be.
The concept was simple but huge – invite 50 builders from around the world to build one bike each using an S&S engine.
My Editor, CD, made me an offer I couldn’t refuse so off I went to La Crosse (LC), Wisconsin. Fortunately I discovered before I left it was Wisconsin and not the other (LC) La Crosse in Indiana, (long story). The plan was to fly to Chicago, rent a car and drive to S&S headquarters. Having a car is pretty necessary at some of these events and this time it allowed me to drive through Milwaukie to visit the Harley engine plant, corporate headquarters and the new museum, drive down to the J & P Cycles open house, and visit the amazing Anamosa National Motorcycle museum, all topics of a scintillating future article(s). On my drive I also got to see some very scenic farmlands and countryside to re-discover that a vast part of this nation is still not covered by blacktop and concrete.
Let me throw out a just a few words here – focus, dedication, intensity, family, detail, and loyalty. There are more but let me say that these showed up all weekend in every aspect of the event. Everything was handled in house and the results were no less than exceptional, surpassing what I have seen many ‘professional’ promoters do. Kudos guys & gals.
I arrived in LC mid-day Thursday and drove directly to the S&S complex and found many bikes still being fine tuned and readied for the competition. Howard Kelly got me credentialed and I was off for a tour of the impressive facilities.
Friday was the first day of the show held at the Oktoberfest grounds in LC. I did my usual brief run getting familiarized with the layout, visiting the vendors and finding the food. I need to mention here that this whole event was an invitational, in that control was necessary to keep this from becoming too large of an undertaking.
The highlight of Friday was a Midwest downpour the likes of which I have not seen, around here we would call it a flash flood as that is exactly what happened causing the waters to rise and necessitate many of the bikes be moved to higher ground as a portion of the tent began to fill to the frame rails. It didn’t last too long and eventually the waters subsided leaving a nice rest of the day.
As I wandered about the medium sized vendor area I saw a few familiar faces including a very local guy here in SoCal, Jerry with Purple Slice. The weekend of activities included scheduled S&S plant tours, brewery tours, riverboat cruises & bike rides along with the bike show, judging, bands (Orange County Choppers Band was one) at the fest grounds, etc, etc, etc, – it was a very busy three days.
Now for the biggie – a huge tent filled with 50 of the finest bikes recently created specifically for this competition. Because the bikes are all so special they each automatically qualify for the prestigious AMD championships held in Sturgis every year. Saturday saw the bikes (mostly) start simultaneously and roar for about five minutes giving the spectators an awesome feeling of V-Twin power. Of the 50 builders I counted eleven from out of the U.S. – Australia, Sweden, Belgium, Netherlands, Japan, England, France, Canada, Italy, Germany, & New Zealand.
There were at least these guys from CA; Scott Long, Central Coast Cycles, Chica of Chica Customs, Arlen, Corey, & Zak Ness, Bob & Eric Bennett of Bennett’s Performance, Trevelin of Superco, Kevin Alsop of Big Bear Choppers, & Jessie Rooke, Rooke Customs. Space doesn’t permit naming all 50 so I suggest you go to S&SCycle50th.com to get all the info gathered over the 12 months of creating this extraordinary once in 50 years happening. Who else? Coast to coast, Paul Sr. and Paul JR of OCC fame, from the LBC – Jessie James, West Coast Choppers, Harley Davidson Corporate, the Mayor and of course Quick Throttle Magazine.
Yes there were more and I am sorry to not have included you here, sorry, next time be sure to remind me. As a side issue the financial aspect of the celebration was largely charitable. There was a modest $5 for the weekend entry fee that went to the Oktoberfest committee which keeps the facility open for community event. A total of $100,000 was raised to be distributed to several charities including the Boys and Girls Club and the Children’s Museum. This equated to attendance figures of 10,000 on Friday and about 28,000 for the three days.
If all this wasn’t enough you could go downtown LC and visit the myriad of bars that comprise old town. The locals are proud to announce (I heard it several times) that Wisconsin has the highest per capita consumption of beer in the U.S. And we thought they were only famous for cheese and motorcycles. For this weekend the main street was closed to four wheel traffic letting only bikes cruise and park amongst the pedestrians all in a very officer friendly environment.
I don’t often list the winners but because one of our local shops was a winner in their class (T), Bennett’s Performance of Signal Hill (Long Beach) I will honorably do so here. The other winners were, Krugger-Belgium(P), Cooke-U.S.(SH)., Odyssey-France(SB), Chauvin-France(V), Kodlin-Germany(XW), peoples choice Dougz Custom Painting -La Crosse, and overall winner of $50,000 worth of S&S products was Hot Dock-Japan. For all the specific details and studio photos by Michael Lichter of all bikes, again, visit S&SCycle50th.com. This was not a casual undertaking for these builders as all competitors had to buy the engine they chose to build their bike around while the winner of the class was re-reimbursed for his as 1st place prize winnings.
I would like to commend the people of La Crosse and S&S for their hospitality and friendliness in supporting the event. They seemed to go out of their way to be sure we all had a good time and appeared to really appreciate our being there.