Harleys revved, the crowd roared and merchant Bob Okpara stood with cotton balls stuffed in his ears as more than 60,000 bikers rumbled along in a parade marking the motorcyclemaker's 90th anniversary.
"Maybe when it's their 100th anniversary they will come again, so we can get used to the noise," Okpara said. "This is fantastic."
He sold sunglasses to squinting spectators who turned out in the thousands Saturday for Harley-Davidson's anniversary bash. Bikers from around the world motored down Wisconsin Avenue, greeted by handshakes and high-fives from the crowd.
Among leaders of the pack was Harley enthusiast Jay Leno, who served as emcee of a birthday ceremony Saturday night. The Tonight Show host wore a gray leather jacket, and his wife, Mavis, sat on the back of his gray and red bike during the parade.
"It felt like the kind of parade we didn't get when we came back from Vietnam," said Rick Jensen, 44, of Carlisle, Pa. "All the way on the overpasses and everything there were cheering and waving. The problem is we have to wait 10 more years for 100."
Stretches of Interstate 94 were closed for several hours along a 45-mile stretch as motorcyclists rolled into downtown.
Authorities estimated the crowd lining the highways and parade route at 70,000 to 100,000.
At the downtown festival grounds Saturday afternoon, the gathering took a romantic twist with the double wedding of David Mangus, 42, to Lisa Donisi, 31, of Garden City, Mich., and Lynn Lisko, 31, to Jim Nugent, 41, of Sarasota.
To the strains of Only You and the hoots and hollers of their audience, the couples marched on stage accompanied by a tiny flower girl in a black leather dress.
America's only major motorcyclemaker was launched in Milwaukee in 1903 by three boyhood friends working out of a shed. Today, Harley-Davidson owns a 60 percent share of the domestic motorcycle market.