1986 - In the hopes of better motorcycling weather, the event was scheduled earlier in the fall and held Sept. 6. A 60-mile ride through the Harrison Hills area east of Tomahawk was followed by a bratwurst picnic at Bradley Park. About 1,200 people on 676 motorcycles participated. Money raised for MDA totaled more than $3,200.
1989 - The event moved permanently to SARA PARK. Attendance estimates reached 5,000 people and 1,500 motorcycles. The donation to MDA neared $10,000. Money was raised through a $6 registration fee, raffles, product sales and other activities.
1990 - The big news that year was the addition of the raffle bike. A 1990 HarleyDavidson Sportster was the first bike to be given away and was won by a Merrill man. At $1 per ticket for the chance to win a brand new Harley-Davidson motorcycle, raffle tickets sold like hot cakes and helped the event raise nearly $16,000 for MDA.
1991 - New for 1991 was the Thunder Parade through the streets of Tomahawk. This was the first year everyone was invited to ride along. The annual ride drew an estimated 4,000 riders and more than $20,000 was raised for MDA.
1993 - The donation to MDA took another sizable leap as the event raised about $47,000 for the organization. More than 5,000 motorcycles were estimated to be in town for the ride.
1995 - The brand new Tomahawk Harley-Davidson North Plant opened for tours during the 1995 Fall Ride. The crowd was estimated to be about 13,000 strong with 10,000 motorcycles parked on SARA PARK runway. The total donation to MDA topped $80,000.
1996 - A fifteenth anniversary concert is held with BTO playing to the crowd.
1997 - To commemorate the Green Bay Packers' Super Bowl championship, the 1997 raffle bike was painted Green and Gold and personally autographed by Packer coach Mike Holmgren, himself a Harley enthusiast. The donation to MDA that year topped $100,000, with more than $67,000 raised from the bike raffle. Attendance estimates hovered around 30,000 people and 15,000 motorcycles.
1998 - The event added another component to the weekend with a street dance. Four blocks of main street were closed down to allow bikes to park "Sturgis style" with bands playing at both ends. The crowd was again estimated at 30,000 people, with 17,000 motorcycles. The Thunder Parade featured about 2,000 bikes. Along with the HarleyDavidson Electra Glide and sidecar, a powerboat also was raffled off. More than $100,000 was raised for MDA.
1999 -The 30,000-person crowd estimate holds for a third straight year. The number of motorcycles is estimated at 14,000. About 2,700 bikes participated in the Thunder Parade.
2001- The Tomahawk Fall Ride Committee hands over the street dance to the city, Chamber of Commerce, Tavern League and Business Association. To commemorate the 20`" anniversary of the ride, a second bike was added to the raffle. The first place winner received a 2001 Ultra Electra Glide Classic and second place received a 2001 Sportster.
2002 - Proved to be another huge success. Two raffle bikes were given away, over 25,000 guests in attendance and over $100,000 raised for MDA.
2003 - A comedian was added as well as a very successful Thursday night concert with national act Jackyl headlining. Rain didn't dampen the spirits as over 20,000 still attended the event. A record $116,000 was raised after all was said and done.
2004 - The event lengthens to 3 full days with a Thursday noon start. Jackyl once again headlines a Thursday nigh concert. A picture platform is added to allow participants a bird's eye view of the grounds. Warm temperatures (for September) and sunshine held out for the weekend, a sure contributor to the record $185,000 raised for MDA. $75,000 from raffle bike proceeds alone, another record. Estimates put the crowd at 40,000.
The Tomahawk Fall Ride has grown beyond the wildest expectations of those who guided it in its infancy and is sure to continue that incredible growth.
2005 - The 24th Annual Tomahawk Fall Ride in 2005 began with the crowd showing up earlier than ever. Conversations with our guests are indicating that it is now impossible to judge the total attendance in persons for the weekend as many bikers only spend one day in Tomahawk and are attending events for bikers in towns around the area. This of course means that in total the number of folks coming north is ever increasing, but the daily crowds remain the same. After all, you can only put so much gas in your tank, or folks in the town. Right!
The Fall Ride is comprised of several ad hoc committees who handle separate parts of the overall event. There is group for each of the activities. There are the planners for Sara Park, Thursday evening at the riverfront, the street dances, the plant tours, the parade and Bubba's event. Every thing that happens makes the event a success.
Recently websites have become an important part of spreading the word about events to see and do at the Fall Ride.
The ride in 2005 as a result of the many changes raised about $117,000 for MDA. Much of the money raised, is always as a result of the bike raffle. Many charities in Tomahawk benefit from the event selling food, cleaning up and doing other things that help the event go as smoothly as it does.
It appears that Birthdays, Christmas, New Years, the Fourth of July, Labor Day and the Tomahawk Fall ride have become special dates on more biker's calendars every year.
by Glenn Christianson