Roar Of Harleys Is The Sound of Money For Tomahawk

Annual Fall Ride Brings Major Economic Boost For Community

Two bikers riding a Harley in front of the Harley Soma Avenue Plant in Tomahawk.
Two bikers riding a Harley in front of the Harley Soma Avenue Plant in Tomahawk. Photo: Glen Moberg/WPR News.

The roar of thousands of Harley Davidson motorcycles signaled not only that the annual Fall Ride from the city of Tomahawk had begun once more, but also that a major economic boost was in store for northern Wisconsin over the weekend.

The people who live in Wisconsin paper mill towns will tell you that the pungent odor in the air is the “smell of money” – and the roar of the engines, perhaps, can also be called the “sound of money.”

“It’s also the sound of fun and entertainment and the good camaraderie of everyone that’s on two wheels,” said Jeff Deckey, who came from Sheboygan to join this year’s Fall Ride.

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The ride brings hundreds of Harleys to Tomahawk every year, lining both sides of Main Street and transforming the sleepy community of 3,700 people into a small city of 40,000.

“It’s not only the businesses on Main Street, but it’s the whole region that benefits from this influx of riders and their money,” said Jim Wise, the co-owner of the Tomahawk Surplus Store and president of the Main Street Association. “People rent their homes to the same people. They see them every fall. It’s like a reunion.”

The bikers and their money keep many of the city’s nonprofits going as well. This year, Mark VonSchrader was selling pulled pork sandwiches for the Tomahawk Volunteer Fire Department.

“New gear for new firefighters, air packs, extrication equipment — anything we need, it will go for,” he said.

The biggest economic boost, however, comes from the two Harley factories in the community and the people they employ. Kurt Beutel of Bellville said he’s just completed a tour of the Somo Avenue plant.

“It’s wonderful to keep jobs in Wisconsin,” said Beutel. “It keeps people working here, and the economy going.”

The Fall Ride also raised about $80,000 for the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

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