V-twin performance parts manufacturer makes it a party in Wisconsin
A passion for speed prompted George J. Smith Sr. and partner Stanley Stankos to launch S&S Cycle in 1958. A year later, George and his wife, Marjorie, bought out Stankos’ shares of the company and operated out of their family’s basement in Blue Island, Ill., before relocating to Viola, Wis., in 1969.
Fast-forward to 2013 and the S&S family is stronger than ever, having grown to become one of the most prominent forces in the V-twin aftermarket industry. On June 21-22, thousands of friends, fans, S&S employees and their families gathered on the shores of the Mississippi River in La Crosse, Wis., to celebrate 55 years of “Proven Performance.”
The celebration began Friday afternoon at the city’s famed Oktoberfest Grounds with live music, vendors and a kickoff ceremony led by George B. Smith Jr., chairman and chief executive officer of S&S Cycle. Smith Jr. welcomed attendees and thanked everyone for supporting the S&S family before introducing company president Stephen Iggens, who stressed that this weekend was about one thing — the S&S family of employees.
“The employees are the heart and soul of this company, and without them we couldn’t do anything,” Iggens said. “We talk about being a family and being a team here at S&S constantly. All we try to do is set expectations and exceed them every day in Viola and La Crosse. I’m honored to be surrounded by 200 hard-working and honorable colleagues, and being a part of this 55th anniversary celebration is a great feeling.”
On Saturday, S&S hosted two motorcycle rides to the Viola location for a pancake breakfast, plant and museum tours, and a Racing Legends Roundtable discussion that included S&S engineers, 16-time land-speed record holder Warner Riley, Chris Rivas, who piloted the “world’s fastest bagger” to 201.707 mph at Bonneville, and Mike Witt and Jim Fischer of the famed Grey Ghost Project, among others. Smith Jr. led the panel of racing royalty and shared stories from the salt flats and drag strips, again stressing the importance of the S&S family of racers, tuners and employees.
The newly remodeled museum was “the centerpiece” of the plant tours during the weekend, according to Smith Jr. A historical timeline display telling the story of S&S Cycle from the Blue Island basement through today, the museum was a hit with visitors and offered a glimpse at the technical evolution of the company’s V-twin performance products. On display was Smith Sr.’s “Tramp” race bike from the early ’50s, every powerplant S&S has designed and manufactured — including the first X-Wedge prototype ever produced— photographs, awards and much more.
Despite severe weather in the La Crosse area that weekend, Smith Jr. was happy with attendance and the event overall.
“The 50th anniversary celebration was a tough act to follow. We had 50 custom builders from all over the world compete in the bike build with the S&S-supplied engines, and that spectacle brought with it a host of attendees in and of itself,” Smith said. “We brought in Foghat and a lot of great musical acts, but this 55th is more about La Crosse and Viola — about the facilities, the new museum and, of course, the employees. We want people to find out what’s really happening here at S&S.”