TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) – One by one, they told their stories.
Driving the tractor trailer rig “Big Red” through the mountains. Looking over the ramp at Wembley Stadium, wondering if their boss would make it out of this one. A close call with the Hell’s Angels. They even told of a few disagreements.
But the common threads among the tales from 10 Evel Knievel crew members gathered Friday night in Topeka were family and love.
In fact, a family reunion is a bit what it felt like at the VIP reception marking grand opening festivities for the Evel Knievel Museum, now open at Historic Topeka Harley-Davidson, SW 21st and Topeka Blvd.
In addition to crew members, community leaders and museum sponsors, guests also mingled with members of the Knievel family, including widow Krystal, oldest daughter Tracey and son Robbie, who followed in his father’s footsteps as a daredevil performer.
“I hope (museum visitors) see a guy that was going down the Strip in Vegas that became famous looking at the fountains of Caesar’s Palace saying, ‘I want to be the first sporting event gladiator ever there.’ And he was. And he crashed. And he put on his red, white and blue leathers and took his black leathers off and he just became Evel Knievel,” Robbie said.
Tracey became emotional as she addressed the crowd, thanking them for their support of her father and his dream of one day creating a museum chronicling his career. She said he inspired generations.
Museum co-founders Mike Patterson of Topeka Harley Davidson and Lathan McKay, who secured most of the artifacts, also addressed the crowd, recounting the years of work it took to make the museum a reality.
The grand opening festivities continue from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, July 1. A $ 40 VIP ticket included special tours, a souvenir bag, a 4D virtual reality jump experience and lunch.
Regular admission is $ 20, plus $ 5 for the jump experience.