Historic Harley-Davidson owner Mike Patterson had hoped people would flock to the Evel Knievel Museum once it opened to see the motorcycles, outfits, Big Red Mack truck and other memorabilia associated with its daredevil namesake.
Patterson says visitor statistics — collected by a virtual guest book in the museum’s entryway — have been encouraging and a bit surprising.
During its first four months of operation, the museum inside Historic Harley-Davidson, 2047 S.W. Topeka Blvd., has counted more than 16,000 visitors, mostly from out of state. The museum is projecting it will see 100,000 visitors in 2018.
“The thought was it was going to be a whole lot of motorcycle people here, and that’s not the biggest part of our visitors,” said Patterson, co-founder of the museum. “It’s a whole cross-section.”
Visitors — families, couples, old, young — have hailed from all 50 states and 20 countries, including Belgium, Ireland, India, Japan, Russia and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Nearly 60 percent of the visitors are from outside of Kansas.
“It’s consistent that there’s a guy that’s from 40 to 60 (years old) that’s usually part of the group, and maybe the main reason they’re here,” Patterson said. “But what’s interesting to find out is that the people who are with them are surprised by how much fun they have and how much they learn.”
Patterson said he expected people to stop at the museum as part of a larger trip that took them through the capital city.
“But the surprising thing is how many people are making this their destination,” he said.
Patterson said he hopes the museum continues to gain momentum and becomes an iconic site that people want to visit.
“Our goal is to create an attraction that is bringing people to our city, and they can stay hopefully for a day or two and experience some of the other things that we have here,” he said.
Jim Caplinger, a Topeka lawyer and co-founder of the Evel Knievel Museum, said he expects the nonprofit museum to eventually supplement ticket sales with revenue from bus tours and other special events, but donations and other support are needed “in order to survive in perpetuity.”
“It’s unlimited, but this is just a start,” Caplinger said. “I hope the city, the state and a lot of people appreciate that it’s here, and that donations continue to come in to make it something that will be here for many, many generations.”
Contact niche editor Jan Biles at (785) 295-1292.
View more Evel Knievel stories in our special section here.
EVEL KNIEVEL MUSEUM
What: A two-level museum commemorating the career of daredevil Evel Knievel through his jumps, motorcycles, clothing, products and restored Big Red Mack truck.
Where: Inside Historic Harley-Davidson, 2047 S.W. Topeka Blvd.
Hours: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday-Friday; 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday; closed Sunday-Monday
Admission: $ 15 for adults; $ 12 for seniors; $ 7 for students ages 8 to 16; free for age 7 and younger.
Information: (785) 215-6205; firstname.lastname@example.org; evelknievelmuseum.com; facebook.com/theevelknievelmuseum/; twitter.com/EKMuseum; instagram.com/evelknievelmuseum/
Museum director: Bruce Zimmerman
Marketing director: Amanda Beach