What’s up with the motorcycle rally?

The Hollister Independence Rally brings thousands of bikers into town every year.

The future of this year’s Hollister Independence Rally could be decided this month as event promoter Roadshows Inc. tries to wrap up enough sponsors to submit a proposal to the city.

Promoter Randy Burke said the Reno-based company is still pursuing national sponsors for this year’s event—which would take place on July 6, 7 and 8—if he signs enough national sponsors.

“We plan on making a proposal sometime in February,” Burke said by phone Monday. “It’s all contingent on our successful landing of several new sponsors.”

Last year marked the 70th anniversary of the event that inspired the internationally-known motorcycle rally—the 1947 invasion of Hollister by the Boozefighters motorcycle club that was re-told in the iconic 1953 film The Wild One starring Marlon Brando. The first official motorcycle rally to commemorate that biker invasion of a small California town occurred in 1997, the 50th anniversary. The Hollister Independence Rally is the largest annual event for the city.

While Burke said he couldn’t disclose potential sponsors for the 2018 motorcycle rally, he said sponsorships on the national level are critical.

“Hollister is our most expensive event to produce for the year,” he said.

In addition to the Hollister Independence Rally, Burke and his company also promote the Street Vibrations Rally in Reno.

“Randy told me he was going to know by the end of the month about a couple of sponsors,” City Manager Bill Avera said. “It’s going to be difficult to make it work if he doesn’t get those.”

Last year, the Hollister Independence Rally brought thousands of bikers to the barricaded downtown strip of San Felipe Road. Locals and travelers mixed and mingled among street vendors, side shows, and other entertainment like headlining actor Erik Estrada, who starred in the 1970s television show “CHiPs” about two California Highway Patrol motorcycle officers.

“The good thing about working with Roadshows Inc. is we won’t vary too much from what we’ve done in the past,” Avera said. “From setup and teardown, to even what the Hollister Police Department is dealing with. It doesn’t take as much time as it used to. We’re getting good at it.”

Roadshows Inc. first promoted the Hollister Independence Rally in 2016. They were the third promoter in four years to handle the event. It was the only promoter to submit a bid for the 2016 rally after the 2015 promoter, Las Vegas-based ConvExx, left over a dispute of $90,000 owed to the City of Hollister.

While the budget has remained consistent over the past couple years, previous years showed large fluctuations. A city spreadsheet obtained in a 2016 records request by the Free Lance shows total activity expenses for the rally from 2013 to 2017. Total activity expenses were $150,930 for 2013-2014, $244,950 for 2014-2015, $193,101 for 2015-2016, and $163,969 for 2016-2017.

For the 2017 Hollister Independence Rally, Roadshows Inc. entered into a $164,000, three-day contract with the City of Hollister.

The majority of contract funds are used to bring in additional police officers from neighboring jurisdictions for security, according to city finance staff.

Avera said the city could quickly come up with a contract for the 2018 motorcycle rally, but if things can’t come together there would be a resolution placed on a future Hollister City Council agenda to formally cancel the event.

If Roadshows Inc. doesn’t deliver a proposal, it might be too late to find another promoter to oversee the 2018 Hollister Independence Rally.

“I’m hoping we can get some resolution one way or the other relatively quickly,” Avera said. “If we are having it, it will be promoted correctly. And if we’re not, then we prepare for the other side of it.”


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