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San Benito
April 16, 2024

Without rally, police chief still preps for ‘unknown’

While it’s a done deal — there won’t be a Hollister motorcycle rally this July — history says the official cancellation won’t keep many bikers away.

That means Hollister government leaders and police officials will have to prepare either way.

“Yeah, it’s not happening,” Mayor Ignacio Velazquez said. “Nobody wants to change their opinions on that.”

Velazquez and Councilman Ray Friend were on the short end of a 3-2 March vote in favor of canceling the rally due to the lack of a promoter for the 2018 event. The promoter the past two years, Roadshows, dropped out this year because it couldn’t find necessary sponsorships to make the event work financially. That left council members without an event organizer for a rally drawing tens of thousands of visitors to Hollister just four months before July 4 weekend and, hence, the cancellation.

Hollister Police Chief David Westrick, meanwhile, said he will approach this year’s July 4 weekend, when it’s traditionally held, similarly to a decade ago when the city canceled the sanctioned event, which commemorates the 1947 Hollister riots retold in the classic biker movie “The Wild One.” Hollister held its first sanctioned rally in 1997, but it has had an on-again, off-again history since then.

“Those are the first years when it got canceled,” Westrick said regarding a decade ago. “That first year when it was canceled, there were obviously quite a few people downtown.”

Westrick told San Benito Live his outlook “boils down to being prepared for the unknown.”

“We don’t even know on a rally year, when there’s actually an event, how many people will show up,” he said. “We have no idea. We sort of have to prepare for kind of everything.”

Westrick said police and other officials will follow the same process with or without a sanctioned event by preparing for increased traffic, working with the fire department to ensure there is adequate medical personnel available downtown, making sure public works has a plan for garbage issues, and making sure there are avenues for an evacuation from the downtown area.

As for crime concerns, he compared the rally to a sporting event in how there will always be good and bad spectators involved. He’s not concerned about biker clubs, he said.

“I’m just concerned about making sure it’s a safe environment.”

He acknowledged there will be overtime costs for the city that week, but the city won’t bring in any officers from other communities like it does with a sanctioned rally. Public safety officials will keep mutual aid agencies in mind for any extraordinary situations, though, he said.

Overall, Westrick said he looks at the rally week from a positive perspective, and he encouraged bikers to enjoy Hollister’s establishments and spend money here on their way to places like Hollister Hills or Pinnacles National Park.

Looking ahead, the mayor said he hopes future leadership supports the rally and he wants to see an equal playing field with funding of events, pointing out how the city puts taxpayers’ money toward other locally sanctioned gatherings like the farmers market.

“There’s people in this community, some elected officials, that see bikers as a negative as opposed to a positive,” Velazquez said. “We have a history here that you can’t make up. It’s a great story. People want to visit.”

-Story by Kollin Kosmicki