The rally needs to look to neighbor for advice

With the firing of Executive Director Bob Beals, it seems that
things are being shaken up at the Hollister Independence Rally.
With the firing of Executive Director Bob Beals, it seems that things are being shaken up at the Hollister Independence Rally. With all the turmoil surrounding this year’s event – the rally on the verge of cancellation, pressure to come up with and extra $220,000 to pay for security and plans that don’t seem to have panned out to make that money – it’s no surprise.

Beals worked hard and, with his long beard and leathers, likely brought instant credibility with the biker crowd. But this can be an opportunity. There comes a time when a festival has to grow up. That’s where the Hollister Independence Rally finds itself.

As we’ve said in the past, the rally has reached a point where it must become a much more professional organization if it’s going to survive. The Hollister Independence Rally Committee and a representative from the city must take the time to learn how to run a smooth, profitable, safe and fun rally.

They don’t have to go far to see how it’s done. This weekend, the Garlic Festival is holding its 26th ode to the reeking bulb. In 1979, the Garlic Festival was planned by 20 people and had 150 volunteers. Now, it’s planned by 73 people and has more than 4,000 volunteers. Over the years, the Gilroy event has raised $5.2 million for nonprofits, created a unifying identity for the community and brought in hundreds of thousands of dollars for hotels, restaurants, gas stations and city coffers.

That’s a remarkable feat and a sign of a thriving event with full community support. It’s a phenomenon that the rally should learn from and emulate. After this year’s Garlic Festival dies down, rally organizers should ask for a little neighborly advice.

Ask Garlic Festival organizers for help finding a new director. Ask them how to gain more corporate sponsorship. Ask them how to overcome the multitude of minor problems – like ensuring there is enough power for vendors – that add up to major headaches. Pick their brains and put their knowledge to use in Hollister.

If the Independence Rally is going to survive and flourish for years to come – something we hope for – it must take a long look at its financial model and learn to operate like a business. It’s encouraging that rally organizers seem eager to go in a more professional direction.

“The rally has grown significantly over the past several years, and we just want to find somebody that’s done this type of stuff before,” said HIRC Vice President Dave Ventura about finding a replacement for Beals.

Investing the time to find the right director and to learn the tricks to holding a successful event will pay off. Yes, the streets are crowded and noisy for three days, but the rally draws thousands of bikers to town, and the money they spend – those bikes aren’t cheap – is a financial godsend for many local businesses. And don’t forget, after the rally pays all its bills, it donates money to nonprofits.

Success with the rally will be a great boon to Hollister. Nothing else puts the city on the map, or has the potential to draw cash, like it does. Now is the time to make it work.

To respond to this editorial or comment on this issue, please send or bring letters to Editor, Hollister Free Lance, 350 Sixth St., Hollister, Calif. 95023 e-mail to [email protected]

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