Bleak Future for Rally

Though proposals are on the table, Hollister still no closer to
a 2006 motorcycle rally
Hollister – Just weeks after the newly-formed for-profit group Ghostrider Promotion’s gave Hollister’s City Council a proposal to organize its annual biker rally at a venue outside of downtown, a second group has approached the city with a plan to keep the rally in the heart of the city and to remain a nonprofit event.

After nine years organizing the city’s signature motorcycle event, the City Council voted last month to terminate the Hollister Independence Rally Committee’s contract after the group stuck the city with a $360,000 public safety bill this year. The 3-1 decision created a snowball effect, and since then two groups have attempted to woo the council with proposals in the hopes of keeping the Fourth of July event alive. A group of former HIRC members formed the group Ghostrider Promotions, and came calling with a proposal to take over the rally and hold it at the local airport. While council members were perusing Ghostrider’s proposal at their Dec. 19 meeting, another group calling itself the Hollister Rally Commission appeared with a proposal to keep the rally downtown and cut public safety costs by using armed security guards to augment police.

The Hollister Rally Commission proposal, which was delivered by Hollister Signs owner Marlon Moss, calls for holding the rally downtown and having other events at Bolado Park. The group estimates that between $122,000 and $152,000 will be raised from the sale of temporary business licenses, tax revenue, inspection fees and a $25,000 “rally organizer fee.” The city would use that money to cover the cost of the rally, according to Moss’ three page handwritten proposal. Public safety costs – the lion’s share of rally expenses – would be reduced by using armed security guards and hiring fewer police officers from neighboring jurisdictions, according to the proposal.

Moss could not be reached for comment Monday.

The motorcycle rally, along with HIRC, has been the subject of considerable criticism in recent months. In October, Hollister Police Chief Jeff Miller heavily criticized the rally in a law enforcement report, stating that he could not guarantee adequate public safety staffing for future events because of the increasing risk of violent clashes between rival motorcycle clubs. He also raised concerns about the event becoming too adult-themed and placing the city in a bad light.

When Ghostrider presented its proposal to the council, the city’s leaders weren’t impressed with the figures offered. The Hollister Rally Commission’s proposal received a lukewarm reception as well.

“I don’t know if that’s something that will work or not,” Mayor Robert Scattini said, referring to Moss’ proposal.

And Councilwoman Monica Johnson said that the rally, which drew 120,000 people this year, has grown too big for downtown.

“The thing with that is it puts it back into downtown,” she said. “The whole council agreed, we can’t maintain an event in downtown. It’s too expensive.”

Johnson also questioned the Hollister Rally Commission’s financial estimates, saying she doubted that the city could put on a rally for $122,000 without it costing the city’s general fund in the end. As for using security guards in lieu of police officers, she said that it would put the city at increased risk if something went wrong.

While the Ghostrider proposal moved the rally to the Hollister Municipal Airport and out of downtown, council members weren’t immediately smitten with it, either. It calls for a $10 gate fee, making the event age restricted, using police officers as security and making it a closed venue. It would also showcase wet T-shirt contests, motorcycle races and an air show.

Despite profits for the city of more than $550,000 projected in the Ghostrider proposal, projected expenses exceeding $1.4 million have council members wary of risking the city’s general fund for profits that might not pan out. Also, Ghostrider is facing some opposition from businesses and tenants at the airport who say that 100,000 bikers will distract from the aviation-related activities at the airport.

Regardless of being open-minded about finding a new way to organize the rally, as precious rally-planning months continue to slip by, some on the City Council are starting to think that a 2006 rally simply isn’t in the cards.

“I think it’s too late,” said Scattini, who has been a steadfast rally supporter.

But others on the council think it could be done, but will only support a proposal that doesn’t put the city at financial risk.

“I think if someone is willing to be really serious about it – not expect the city to take it on – it can still happen,” Johnson said. “It’s not going to happen if the city has to take the lead on it.”