Teresa Smith of York gets a tattoo of a Harley logo at the rally. (Christina Kauffman Photo)
Teresa Smith of York gets a tattoo of a Harley logo at the rally. (Christina Kauffman Photo)
Every dot of ink on Teresa Smith's body has a story, a memory. The things that have changed her life are the things she has allowed to leave an indelible mark on her skin. On Sunday, it was a Harley-Davidson emblem that claimed a special place on the canvas of her body -- above her heart.

Smith, from York City, was one of thousands of people who turned out at a "Save Our Plant" rally held at Sovereign Bank Stadium to show the community's support for keeping open the Harley manufacturing plant in Springettsbury Township. She had the emblem tattooed on her chest to remember the special day, she said.

Like others who attended the event, Smith said she grew up with Harleys and the plant, and the bikes are woven into both the fabric of the community and the lives of those who work there.

A Harley rider shows her support for the Springettsbury Township Harley-Davidson plant as Sunday s Save Our Plant Ride and Rally leaves Sovereign Bank
A Harley rider shows her support for the Springettsbury Township Harley-Davidson plant as Sunday s Save Our Plant Ride and Rally leaves Sovereign Bank Stadium. (Doug Bauman Photo)

She remembers being 5 years old -- 35 years ago -- and riding on the tank of her dad's bike while he drove. He worked at the plant for more than 30 years before retiring, and her mom still works there, Smith said.

So while even the rose in memory of her late beloved grandmother Evelyn gets an arm, Harley gets her heart.

Crowd despite weather: The event drew a huge crowd, despite torrential downpours in the morning and heat in the afternoon. If those in attendance had all decided to sit down, the 5,200-seat stadium would likely have been near capacity.

In addition to the tattoo artists, there were live music and activities for children.

The event started at 11 a.m. with a 50-mile motorcycle ride through parts of York and Adams counties, including a drive past the Eden Road plant that employs about 2,000 people.

District Judge Barry Bloss Jr., also a member of the York area motorcycle group "Renegade Pigs," was a member of the massive group of bikers to make the trip. Organizers at WPMT Fox 43, which sponsored the event, said 1,500 bikers turned out.

Bloss said people gathered along the caravan's route cheered and clapped in support of the riders, and some motorists pulled over to watch as the group passed.

Craig Bonham Jr., left, watches as Craig Bonham and Shelly Bonham, all of York, sign a petition to save the Harley-Davidson plant. (Doug Bauman Photo)
Craig Bonham Jr., left, watches as Craig Bonham and Shelly Bonham, all of York, sign a petition to save the Harley-Davidson plant. (Doug Bauman Photo)

Bloss said he was pleased to see such a good turnout for the event, because the loss of the Harley plant would be devastating not only to those who work there; it would affect the plant's suppliers and other businesses, such as restaurants, which depend on the plant's employees as customers.

Judstn Mehring, a York County Sheriff's Deputy and a Renegade Pig, said the economy is "bad enough, let alone Harley leaving."

The plant is also a symbol of American pride, he said.

"When we ride Harleys, we ride an American-made bike and support our local community."

Wrightsville resident Brent Miller said he had a much more personal reason for attending the event.

"To save my job," he said. "I hope it works. I just hope the company makes the right decision to keep (the plant) here."

Plant called inefficient: The company has said the York facility is inefficient in both its facilities and the use of its work force.

But Gov. Ed Rendell, who spoke at Sunday's event, vowed to do what it takes to compel Harley to stay. The plant attracts visitors from all over the country and supports the local tax base, he said.

He said he and local state representatives and senators support a $15 million allocation to help the company modernize the plant.

Rendell told the crowd, soliciting jeers, that three other states have offered "good cash deals" to try to woo the company. But he said he thinks York will be victorious.

"I believe, when the dust clears, Harley-Davidson is gonna be in York County for years and years to come," he said.

The company is expected to make a decision in September.

And Sen. Mike Waugh, R-Shrewsbury, said he gets the idea the company wants to stay in York.

One of several state and county politicians to attend the rally, Waugh said he attended a meeting between Rendell and Harley executives last week.

"They want to stay in York," he said. "They like York. They like the people. They had no reason to buffalo us on that."

Like the other politicians in attendance, he said he supports using state money as an incentive to keep the plant in York.

Ride to Milwaukee: The Fox station is also organizing a 1,600-mile round trip motorcycle ride to the company's Milwaukee headquarters. A small group of riders, led by news anchor Evan Forrester, is set to leave Monday and meet with company representatives on Wednesday.

They're expected to present a DVD of the event and petition signatures collected in support of keeping the plant in York County.

-Reach Christina Kauffman at 505-5436 or ckauffman@yorkdispatch.com.