Kaden Catlett sat still in his mother’s arms as he stared curiously at the motorcycles over her shoulder. The toddler’s mother, Kristee Catlett, appeared equally as interested as they walk through the Harley-Davidson parking lot.
Catlett family members were at the Harley-Davidson Museum on Sunday afternoon where Harley-Davidson held its annual “Mother’s Day Rock ‘n’ Roll Brunch.” Mothers took a break from cooking to look at motorcycles and attend an all-you-can eat buffet, a Mother’s Day for an untraditional mother.
The museum’s restaurant, Motor, held the event. The morning took a rock ‘n’ roll theme. Mothers could receive temporary tattoos. Rockabilly artist Liam Ford played a live acoustic set in the restaurant.
Like the rest of America, Harley-Davidson has seen tough financial times in recent years, but the company still has an appeal that spans generations.
“I was supposed to get a Harley, but instead I got Kaden a couple of years ago,” said Kristee Catlett of Nebraska with a laugh. “We kept Kaden and we just come and visit the cycles now.”
Harley-Davidson motorcycles are often associated with “Easy Rider” and bad-boys, but mothers were the center of attention on Sunday.
Inside Motor, there was the sound of cheerful conversation. Rockabilly musician Liam Ford and two additional musicians were set up in a corner at the heart of the buffet. The interior of Motor was warm, both orange and black – Harley-Davidson’s signature colors. Around the dining families were pieces of metal shaped into art.
Upon walking up to the restaurant and museum, classic rock music was playing: Appropriately, Steppenwolf’s “Born to be Wild.” Motor offers communal tables where more than one family could sit and dine. Outside the sun was shining brightly, reflecting off of the Milwaukee River.
Harley Davidson was founded in Milwaukee in 1903. Since then the company has gone through changes in image. Although often associated with bad-boys, it was mostly families with young children visiting the museum on Sunday.
Tami Greene has worked for Harley Davidson for almost 12 years. For the past year she has been manager of membership and business development at the museum.
For Greene, attending the brunch has become a family tradition.
“Harley has a played such a big role in our lives for such a long time,” said Greene. “We sort of have a tradition of coming here for Mother’s Day Brunch. We’ve come here for the past three years. It’s just a wonderful way to be close and to celebrate Harley, and to have a good time in a beautiful environment.”
As the owner of a 2003 Harley Davidson B-Rod, Greene has taken her eight-year-old Grayson on some motorcycle rides of his own. She has decided that the Harley Davidson brand will stay in the family for years to come.
“We just started riding together last summer,” said Greene, “I wanted to wait until he was old enough to be ready for it. Right now we only ride on backstreets or very quiet city streets. He’s getting accustom to riding it and he loves it. He wants to go out and ride all the time, much more than we have time to do.”
Tami Greene’s mother, Paulette Greene, attended the brunch as both mother and grandmother.
Her grandson, Grayson, rode his bicycle on the concrete with his friends next to the Milwaukee River in the warm air and sunshine as she watched.
“I loved Harleys since before my daughter was born,” said Paulette Green, a Harley fan since she was 19-years-old. “My first ride was in the 60’s. My date took me on his Harley and tried to scare me. He asked, ‘How’d you like it?’ ‘Let’s go again,’ I answered. After that, he couldn’t get rid of me!”
Reservations at the restaurant were booked until four that afternoon, well after the brunch ended at 2:30. The buffet offered options for mothers and a menu for children under 12. Food served at Motor is inspired by “the open road.”
Mothers and guests received free temporary tattoos for attending the brunch. At the museum, mothers could gain free admission.
Linda and Kristee Catlett traveled from Nebraska to see the museum.
“We came to see the Harley museum,” said Linda Catlett. “We’ve all loved Harleys for a long time. It’s just a fun place to come.”
According to Harley-Davidson’s 2010 annual report, the retail sales of 143,391 Harley-Davidson motorcycles decreased 11.7 percent from 2009.
Even though Harley-Davidson is having troubles in the economic downturn, for Kaden Catlett, the dream to own a cycle has not died.
“He asked, ‘Can I have one when I’m 16?’” said Kristee Catlett. “I think you’re going to have to start saving your pennies, honey.”