Hollister council keeps rally hopes alive in 3-2 vote

Hollister Freedom Rally 2015

It looks like the Hollister council is willing to give another kick-start to the faltering motorcycle rally.
Council members voted 3-2 on Tuesday to move ahead on negotiations with a new promoter, Roadshow Inc. out of Reno and the producer of the Street Vibrations event, after last year’s promoter departed in the wake of a $90,000 debt owed to the city.
The latest promoter would be the third in three years for the on-again, off-again rally, Hollister’s signature event paying homage to the 1947 “invasion” of Boozefighters biker club into the sleepy farm town.
Some council members expressed skepticism about the event, with Karson Klauer and Mickie Luna voting against the Tuesday decision. Mayor Ignacio Velazquez, who recently announced he would close his downtown Vault property during this year’s rally so he could make official decisions, turned out to be the swing vote in keeping the event on track for now.
The council’s decision came after a December approval to OK a search for a new promoter. Just one potential event organizer, Roadshows, offered a proposal.
On Tuesday, all parties acknowledged time is running tight, and it showed in the general urgency from city officials and several representatives on hand from Roadshows. It also showed in the open negotiation of sorts on display in public, with city officials pushing for $180,000 to ensure coverage of public safety and other costs and the interested promoter asking to pay $120,000 due to the shortened planning period.
When one of the Roadshows representatives committed to a $135,000 figure during the talks while at the podium, council members seized the dollar figure and indicated they might be willing to listen for that amount.
Whatever the promoter might pay to cover costs, city and Roadshows representatives acknowledged time is running short after Las Vegas-based ConvExx departed its promoter role due to the $90,000 still owed to Hollister.
“Time is of the essence,” Velazquez said.
City Manager Bill Avera at the meeting explained that the city should push to have a deal made by the first week in February to allow proper planning time before the July event.
Before that happened, though, council members and the public Tuesday discussed the event’s prospects for another promoter. The event has evolved from its early days being run by a largely volunteer-based nonprofit group to the private-promoter model used since 2008, with a break in between when the event went on hiatus 10 years ago and eight years ago before its recent revival. The last two years, the Hollister Downtown Association acted as a contractual liaison between the city and promoter, but is staying out of the event’s organization this year.
Luna for the second time at a recent council meeting suggested taking a break for a year is the best option in order to prepare for the 70th anniversary the next year.
“I don’t believe in the word cancel,” she said. “I believe in postponement.”
Velazquez and others warned that a break could be detrimental.
“If the rally is postponed this year, the rally is not coming back,” the mayor said.
Councilman Ray Friend had a more biting word choice.
“I think it’s stupid for us to give away when something’s been handed to us 70 years ago,” Friend said.
He went on to list off other events, indicating they lose money as well, while intimating he wouldn’t support those gatherings if the council put off the rally.
“That means we’re not going to have an air show,” he said, going on to add the Lights On Celebration, farmers’ market and Street Festival & Car Show as others in the same category.
Klauer before the vote expressed concern about Roadshows first proposing to pay $180,000 and then later changing it to $120,000. The promoter has attributed the lower amount to the shorter time frame available to put on the rally.
“That’s a question mark for me,” he said.
The promoter reps tried their best to ease those concerns. They committed to following the prior rally layout as preferred by city officials and agreed to pay the full cost before the rally, something the prior promoter failed to do.
Several speakers showed support for the event during the rally item. One of those speakers, Velazquez’s rival in his two elections, Keith Snow, hit a nerve for the mayor when questioning the official’s declaration that he will close The Vault this year during the event. Making $20,000 or more from the rally through The Vault would constitute a conflict of interest, something the mayor has attempted to walk a fine line around since his election.
“You’re very good at making false accusations,” Velazquez said to Snow after the resident’s comments. “Last year, I didn’t vote on it and I was able to run my facility with restrictions.”

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