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A century worth celebrating in Illinois

Chris Peters, Contributing Writer
April 30, 2012
Filed under Features

Kegel Harley-Davidson planning massive event for 100th in Rockford

Businesses have come and gone over the last 100 years, especially powersports dealerships, but Kegel Harley-Davidson has remained. Karl and Mark Kegel are part of the third-generation of the Kegel family to run the dealership in Rockford, Ill. Kegel Harley-Davidson will celebrate its centennial with multiple events in the coming months.

According to Harley-Davidson Motor Co. records, Joe Kegel, Karl and Mark’s grandfather, signed up as a Harley-Davidson dealer with Arthur Davidson himself in 1912. Joe Kegel moved his dealership from nearby Freeport, Ill., to Rockford in 1923 and it has never left, though it has changed facilities a few times along the way.

“It was [Joe’s] vision and his dream to be a Harley-Davidson dealer. That’s what started the whole thing,” Karl Kegel said.

Kegel Harley-Davidson is the first dealership in the world to have reached its 100th anniversary while also remaining within the same family’s ownership.

“We’ve been through recessions, depressions and everything else and survived,” Kegel said. “We’re probably just too stubborn to let it fail when it probably should have. It just kept on going. I didn’t do it just for myself; it was my grandfather and my father [Bob] who were instrumental in keeping it going. I’ve got brothers and sisters that have helped us keep going throughout the years.”

Having made it to this significant date, the Kegels have some big plans to not only celebrate but attract customers new and old to the dealership. In March, Kegel Harley-Davidson held its official centennial celebration to kick off what will be several months of recognizing the significant accomplishment.

Karl Kegel credits three generations of family members for driving Kegel Harley-Davidson in Rockford, Ill., into its 100th year as a dealership.

The official anniversary date of the dealership was March 30, but the store plans to hold a celebration in June. The dealership has linked up with the Country Throwdown Tour, which features numerous recording artists, including Josh Thompson, Eric Paslay and headliner Gary Allen. The Country Throwdown will be in Rockford on June 23 and will cap off a day-long celebration that will begin that morning with a motorcycle ride through town starting at Kegel Harley-Davidson.

The biker jam lasts all day at the dealership, with food and beverage vendors, field events, entertainment and a motorcycle show. The dealership also will be giving away a motorcycle.

That evening, the dealership will close early, a rare occasion for Kegel Harley-Davidson, for a bike parade from the store to Davis Park, where the Country Throwdown will be held.

The venue will have roped off motorcycle parking for the Harley Owners Group and a VIP tent. Kegel said representatives from Harley-Davidson will also be on hand to help celebrate.

Additionally, during one of the breaks between acts, Karl and members of his dealership will be presented and honored on stage in front of a large local audience. It’s a good chance for local exposure and to create awareness about one of the area’s most historic businesses.

Kegel said he does not have a way of tracking the people that will be coming through the dealership thanks to these celebrations, but he knows it’s going to be a success.

“I know it’s going to be just huge,” he said. “Unless it’s just awful weather, it should be a big deal.”

The dealership is already seeing a lot of interest from customers new and old due to its promotion of the 100th anniversary. There’s also been some demand for 100th anniversary-branded clothing.

“We’ve also had people coming in and asking about [the anniversary] and we’ve got a lot of 100th anniversary items out and about that people are asking for,” Kegel said. “It’s a pretty positive mood in the community for our 100th. I think a lot of people in the community are recognizing that this is a big deal.”

When a family can see its patriarch’s dream through three generations and 100 years, yes, it is a big deal.

 

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