All hands agree that it’s coming back
The throngs returning to 2007’s officially sanctioned
Independence Rally in Hollister agreed on at least one thing:
Let’s do it again.
All hands agree that it’s coming back
The throngs returning to 2007’s officially sanctioned Independence Rally in Hollister agreed on at least one thing: “Let’s do it again.”
“This rally is an institution,” said John Running Bear, a visitor from South Dakota. If it’s an institution, it’s one with a gap in its smile, because financial concerns led to cancellation of a sanctioned event last year.
“I’ve been to motorcycle rallies all over America and this one is one to remember,” Running Bear said.
Nobody could specify exactly how many people attended this year’s event just yet, but estimates were between 100,000-200,000.
“While it’s not really possible to give exact numbers, I can say that this was the biggest crowd on Friday ever,” Promoter Seth Doulton said. “Sunday’s numbers were also a little up. The crowd on Saturday was two times bigger than ever before. I think obviously this is the largest the crowd has ever been.”
Organizers spent months working with volunteers to make sure that everything went off without a hitch, but there were still a few hiccups.
Public safety was a big concern to rally promoters, but according to Doulton the safety statistics really blew him away.
“There were zero arrests on Friday,” Doulton said. “And total arrests were down 50 percent from previous years. Really though, when you get that many people together there are always gonna be arrests. Those arrests that did happen were all after the official rally hours.”
Chief of Police Jeff Miller was a little more reserved with his enthusiasm aboutcrime rates.
“Overall, I was relieved there were no disasters,” Miller said. “I think the different layout overall made the event safer and easier for police services. There were no arrests on Friday at all, which was a first, but Saturday night was probably rougher than most of the past years. Police had to break up two bar fights and had to close down two bars – Paines and Pancho’s – because of fights. There was also definitely a bigger gang presence at this year’s event than in previous years. Both outlaw chopper gang and street gang members.”
However, Miller did see some positives in the rally as well. He mentioned closing things down on Sunday went smoother than ever before and he attributed that directly to the reduced hours and changed layout.
“In the end, it made it easier for us to return to normal duty sooner,” Miller said.
City Manager Clint Quilter was also very pleased with how things turned out.
“I think things went very well,” Quilter said. “There weren’t any surprises and I think that set up and tear down were done better than in the past. There were some issues, but I think overall things went very well.”
Not everyone was thrilled with the new setup.
Art Rodriguez came to the rally on Sunday excited to see more bikes, but because the bikes were parked on side streets it was harder to get to see them all, Rodriguez said.
However, anyone expecting to see motorcycles on San Benito Street again may be disappointed. According to Doulton, as long as his business, Horse Power Promotions, continues to organize the rally there will not be motorcycles on San Benito Street.
“Layout was a compromise,” said Rally Committee Vice Chairman and board member Cesar Flores. “Mostly because of public safety. The people that complained because there were vendors on San Benito Street instead of motorcycles weren’t even bikers.”
Doulton attributed the large crowds not to traditional advertising, but to old-fashioned flyers and enthusiastic bikers.
“We did almost zero traditional advertising,” Doulton said. “We gave out flyers and attracted motorcycle riders. We wanted to bring back the traditional motorcycle rally without gate charges. I see absolutely no reason why this won’t happen again next year.”
Stu Jackson, a visitor all the way from Australia, said he was thoroughly impressed with the way Hollister threw a rally.
“I’d definitely like to come back. We’ve had a wonderful time and everyone has been really nice,” Jackson said.