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Bikers cruise into downtown Hollister for unofficial rally

Corbin Motorcycle Seats hosts ride-in bike show

Ernie and Stephanie Garcia of Salinas joined several other bikers as they rode into Downtown Hollister for the unofficial biker rally on July 3, 2021. Photo: Juan Reyes

The Hollister Independence Rally was postponed for yet another year due to concerns and safety precautions related to the Covid-19 pandemic.  

But that didn’t stop hundreds of bikers who came from far and wide on July 3 to celebrate what would’ve been the 74th Anniversary of the historical biker rally.

Ernie and Stephanie Garcia of Salinas rode into town on their Harley Davidson after missing last year’s event.

“This is a big event around here, as far as bike rallies go,” Ernie said. “We look forward to it all year long. Last year we were disappointed and had nowhere to go.”

The turnout wasn’t as grand compared to previous years but the Garcias were more than excited to be around fellow bikers who made the trek to this year’s unofficial event.

“It’s the excitement and seeing people you haven’t seen. Plus, you meet up with so many people from all across the state,” Stephanie said.

Hollister is the birthplace of the American Biker, which is also what draws the couple to town each year.

“It’s historical,” she said.

Johnny’s Bar & Grill on San Benito Street has occupied the same spot since 1946 and is part of that history that started the biker culture. Peter Lago almost lost the business after he was forced to shut down for nearly eight months in 2020. 

However, he said it’s been encouraging to see people happy to be back outside and involve themselves in outdoor events.

“It’s a great feeling to be able to have a return to normalcy after last year’s crushing and disappointing lockdown,” Lago said. 

Lago recently had the giant mural on the side of the building restored along with some additions that focus on Hollister’s history. He added an American flag, the four Bravo brothers who founded the Top Hatters Motorcycle Club, Lee Marvin as Chino in the movie “The Wild One” and Hollister native Mike Corbin, who set the land speed record of 161.387 miles per hour in 1974.

The festivities also took place outside of town including Corbin Motorcycle Seats on Technology Parkway, which hosted the Open House Party Bike Show.

Robert Bogart of San Jose was checking out the various types of bikes on display. But he said he was disappointed that Downtown Hollister didn’t have its annual Independence Rally. 

“This is cool but there’s not enough vendors to make it worth staying for a while,” he said. “You just walk around and that’s it…. There’s really no place to eat.”

Despite the lack of food and drink options, the 71-year old Stockton native said it was still nice to be able to meet up with friends that he hadn’t seen in more than a year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Bogart, who’s been building motorcycles since 1969, mentioned that he enjoys the different styles of bikes because it gives him ideas of what he wants to build next.

“For me, that’s the best thing about it,” he said. “And meeting new people at the same time.”

Lago said the addition of the parklets has been good for the town throughout the course of the year, but parking was a little hard to come by.

“It’s affected parking, but I think we can come up with some compromises in order to make things good for everybody,” he said.   

Lago said the biker rally is a great time for the community to gather around and meet face to face, which he believes is much more meaningful than sharing pictures over the internet or video chatting. 

He added that the biker rally is just one of the great gathering points where friends that haven’t seen each other in years have a chance to do so, especially after something as traumatic as Covid. 

“There’s been times when it’s hard to hold back tears because there’s so many people that this may be the last time they get to see each other,” he said.