No biker rally this year, but promoters show interest

Bikers will be cruising along San Benito Street starting Friday.

Corbin submits application for third annual event this summer at its Hollister site
A formal, city-endorsed return of a motorcycle rally to downtown Hollister is not in the works for this summer, but promoters remain interested in sponsoring an event in the future.

The catch is the cash-strapped city is only likely to consider the popular biker gathering if it doesn’t have to foot the bill for law enforcement as it has in the past.

“I do have a promoter that wants to come and talk to us,” said Mayor Ray Friend. “He was going to talk to us about this year, but now wants to talk about starting it up again next year. We made him fully aware that it can’t cost the city anything.”

The last city-sponsored biker rally was held in 2008. The city ended its involvement in the event in 2009 after law enforcement costs became prohibitive. City Manager Clint Quilter said he had spoken briefly with Friend about the promoter making a presentation to the Hollister City Council later this month, but had no further details.

Bikers have continued to visit the county in much smaller numbers around the Fourth of July weekend over the past two summers, and motorcycle seat maker Corbin recently submitted a permit application to the city so the Hollister-based manufacturer can hold its third annual Rider Appreciation Day on June 30, the weekend before July 4. Promoting the city as “the birthplace of the American biker,” Corbin said last summer’s event attracted thousands of riders to its Technology Parkway site.

Friend said multiple promoters have expressed interest in bringing back a downtown event that used to attract tens of thousands of visitors to downtown Hollister and San Benito County.

“There is interest,” Friend said. “We are trying to get it together. The best chance we have for an event is in 2013. We’re as ready as we can be. The problem is, somebody’s going to have to present something that isn’t going to cost the city any money.”

In “general conversations” with his fellow council members, Friend said, “I don’t think there’s anybody set against” a return of the biker rally. “It’s just that the budget is a huge problem, and it’s only going to get worse.”

The three-day biker rally officially started in 1997, attracting crowds estimated at 100,000. After the city council cancelled the event in 2006, a private promoter ran the event for two years. But when the city lost more than $200,000 on the event in 2008, it put the brakes on the event.

Since then, individuals and groups have periodically come before the council to encourage a return of the event, saying the city’s endorsement would help boost tourism and tax revenue.

Roger Grimsley, the interim city manager of San Juan Bautista and a former organizer of the Gypsy Tour motorcyle event at Bolado Park, said the return of the biker rally would take “a collaboration of effort of a lot of jurisdictions from government and the private sector, to the benefit of the full community.”

“There are advantages to having great events in downtown Hollister and San Juan because it promotes a lot of revenue and there is disposable income that’s spent,” he said.

Grimsley noted that other city-endorsed events, such as the Hollister Airshow on Memorial Day weekend and the Downtown Street Festival in August, had “hardly any enforcement there.”

“Yet when it comes to a biker rally, they need $300,000 worth of security there.”

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