News Item: Defiant bikers rally for old times' sake
(Category: Biker News)
Posted by
Sunday 02 July 2006 - 16:48:52

Despite the city's official efforts to keep them away, every conceivable brand of motorcycle streamed into Hollister on Saturday for the annual biker rally that put the town on the map.

Bikers in heavy black leather vests and tight-fitting jeans sought relief from the sweltering heat. Hells Angels mixed with weekend warriors -- and police who turned out in force to control the crowds.

Although no official numbers were available, locals estimated that the crowd was less than half as big as last year, when up to 35,000 bikers rumbled into town each day of the July Fourth weekend. After losing $250,000 on the event, the city council voted in February to end its support for the event.

"It's just a regular Saturday morning in Hollister," said San Benito County Sheriff Curtis Hill. "The only color that stands out is the color of the portable toilets in the heat wave."

Bikers paraded through local watering holes, filled campgrounds and hung out at a nearby motorcycle seat manufacturing plant, where Hells Angels legend Sonny Barger, accompanied by his young wife, chatted with visitors.

But some complained that it was not the same.

"I would have been around town all day, but I don't feel welcome," said Bob Worsham, 65, of Concord, one of 200 participants in a poker run from downtown Hollister to San Juan Bautista. He said he planned to leave after completing the ride.

"It's a way to get away from problems, stress, paying bills and wives," said Gaylen Cabral of Tulare, who rode in with 30 friends for the weekend. "They're trying to take it away from us."

Mark Corbin, CEO of the Hollister-based company that bears his name and is the largest motorcycle seat manufacturer in the world, estimated that 15,000 people had come to town.

Store owners and vendors said sales were way off from last year. "Business has been good, but it's not what we've grown accustomed to in years past," said Bernie Rivers, part owner of the Whiskey Creek Salon.

The Rev. Ardyss Golden, coordinator of a pancake breakfast at Hollister United Methodist Church, said some people who used to spend the whole weekend in town were coming up only for Saturday.

"Once they come and eat, there's nothing else to do here," she said. "God welcomes everyone. I hate to think that anyone would not feel welcomed in our town."

Nearly 200 officers from more than a dozen law enforcement agencies kept the crowds under control. Horses patrolled downtown. The California Highway Patrol seized stolen bikes. Officers gave tickets for all kinds of offenses to riders coming into town. Groups of four to six officers stood at every street corner.

Aside from the roar of motorcycles, the streets were relatively quiet. Twenty people had been booked into the county jail Friday for driving under the influence, said Police Chief Jeff Miller. Arrest figures for Saturday were not available.

Mayor Robert Scattini said he was "not a happy camper" and "totally embarrassed" by the way visitors were treated. Scattini, one of two city council members who voted against canceling city support for the event, has spent 46 years in law enforcement. He said he had never seen police pull so many people over.

City Manager Clint Quilter said it was better to have too many police than too few. "It's easier to have them here and cut them loose than to not have them here and try to get them," he said.

Sheriff Hill said criticism of law enforcement was misplaced. "I know there's someone sticking pins in a Curtis Hill voodoo doll," he said, "but that's too bad. I'm not going to allow the outlaw motorcycle gangs to get a foothold in my community."

Barger, something of a godfather for the Hells Angels, downplayed the danger his group poses.

"We come down here just to make the other side nervous," Barger said. "They say a lot of things about us. I say a lot of things about them. Somewhere in the middle, we're both right. But I'm more right."

City leaders -- who think they will lose $150,000 over the weekend -- said they want to plan a more organized event for next year that can help raise revenue.

Some bikers, striking a defiant tone, said they will keep coming back whether the city invites them or not. Others said they had made their plans before the rally was canceled and may not return next year.

Forest Salmans belongs to the San Diego chapter of the Boozefighters Motorcycle Club, which celebrated its 60th anniversary and the marriage of one of its members at a local campground Saturday.

"When the beer is gone," he said, "we'll go home."

http://www.mercurynews.com/mld/mercurynews/14952540.htm


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