support your local newspaper, donate

City says ‘No’ to Hollister Independence Rally

Police chief expresses concern over staffing issues

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

Special to the Free Lance

The Hollister City Council came to a split decision March 21 that there were not enough public safety personnel to support the traditional Independence Day Rally in the city that is known to be “The Birthplace of the American Biker.”

Councilmembers Tim Burns, Dolores Morales and Rick Perez dissented to moving forward with the rally.

The council has been discussing ways to make the rally possible since early 2022. Ideas proposed were to cut the footprint and find additional staffing by reaching out to other cities for help.

“We would always like to have an event that is safe and well-attended,” Hollister Police Chief Carlos Reynoso said. “Emphasis on safe.”

Reynoso said in both the council’s March 7 and 21 meetings that he had been working to reach out to surrounding police chiefs asking for help to staff the event. Yet, he only heard back from three chiefs who could provide one to four officers.

According to Reynoso, many of the previous cities that have helped with staffing in the past can no longer help due to internal understaffing. Many cities are seeing more police personnel retire than being hired.

Law enforcement understaffing is a statewide issue at the moment, according to reports from throughout California.

While initially the rally was going to be bigger than previous years, the promoter for the event, RoadShows, Inc., decided to make cutbacks in an attempt to help. However, even so, Reynoso said there is still not enough enforcement to help out.

If an officer was brought in from a different city, there would be additional costs, such as transportation fees, hourly rates and workers compensation. Should an outside officer be injured, the City of Hollister would be responsible for covering treatment fees, according to Reynoso.

In addition, Reynoso said his difficulty in getting officers from the past could also be coming from the day that Independence Day falls on this year. In past years for the event, it had been in the middle of the week; however, this time it would be a weekend event, meaning officers from other towns will be covering other events.

Corbin Saddles, a major participant of the rally, announced soon after the council’s vote that it will not be hosting its annual Open House at its Hollister facility on the Fourth of July weekend.

“The rally promoter has been retained and there is every indication of a desire to return to this event when feasible,” the company stated on its website. 

Corbin will be offering a sale at the factory from June 27-July 2.

The Independence Rally dates back more than 70 years in Hollister, but has had an off-and-on presence in recent years with sponsorship and political challenges. It has traditionally been the largest annual event in Hollister, drawing thousands of bikers and other visitors from throughout the region for multiple days. 

Roadshows Inc. first promoted the Hollister Independence Rally in 2016.