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Roadshows presents 70th anniversary Independence Rally, Erik Estrada to headline

Roadshows President Randy Burke said he learned from last year's mistakes and predicts a smoother-running rally
Film and TV personality Erik Estrada will appear at The Vault and various venues during rally.
Film and TV personality Erik Estrada will appear at The Vault and various venues during the rally.

Randy Burke, president of Reno, Nev.-based Roadshows Inc., dropped in at Hollister City Hall on May 1 to hand over to Mayor Ignacio Velazquez a check for $80,000 as half of the payments that grant him the rights to put on the 70th Independence Rally June 30 through July 2.

Burke told BenitoLink on May 25 that it was still a little premature to give all the details of what will unfold June 30 because he still had to meet with Hollister Police Chief David Westrick on June 13 to discuss more of the logistics of carrying out the premiere motorcycle event held on the West Coast.

According to its printed advertisement that Roadshows has been publishing in motorcycle magazines all over the country to promote the event, the headliner will be Erik Estrada, who is best known for playing California Highway Patrol officer Frank Poncherello on the television series "CHiPS," which ran between 1977 and 1983.

Estrada’s TV and film career, though, is much more than CHIPS, dating back to 1970, when he appeared in The Cross and the Switchblade, as well as guest appearances on some of the classic programs of the day, including: Hawaii Five-O, Emergency, Kojack, Mannix, Baretta, Hunter, Baywatch, Walker Texas Ranger, as well as numerous films along the way.

Burke said Estrada has been a celebrity guest at many of the events Roadshows produces in Reno, and will be appearing all day June 30 at The Vault to meet fans and sign autographs, as well as introduce some of the bands on the main stage, and meet folks at the bike shows. Burke said there will be two bike shows, including one held in conjunction with Corbin Motorcycle Seats & Accessories. Musical groups this year include Skynnyn Lynnyrd Southern Rock, Lucky Tongue and Cruella on Friday; Caravansarei performing music from Santana, Cougrzz, Beer Drinkers & Hell Raisers on Saturday; Charlie Brechtel’s motorcycle music, and the Fog City Swampers on Sunday.

Burke said he anticipates a relatively smooth running event.

“After last year, we know where we need to get started early and all the players, and the subcontractors,” he said. “Last year, we didn’t know anybody and didn’t know who to call for the beer, for tents, for security or waste management. We spent a lot of time not only interviewing staff but subcontractors. This year, we have all the files and all we needed to do was confirm the dates and check on prices.”

Last year, there were several delays in getting the beer gardens opened due to confusion over liquor licenses. Burke said he did not anticipate any such issues this year.

Whenever the rally is discussed at the city council, there typically is a difference of opinion among not only council members on the value of the rally to the city, but residents also debate the benefits and costs. Mayor Ignacio Velazquez has often stated that if the rally is ever to succeed, there is a need to sign on a promoter long-term rather than go through deliberations every year whether to hold the rally or not. This is the second year that Burke is producing the rally and as far as next year he said he doesn’t think that far out, and said the 2016 rally was not a huge financial success for him.

“We just managed to break even,” he said. “We paid all our bills and almost broke even on the profit-loss. We’re not supposed to be a nonprofit, but that’s a good way to describe last year.”

The majority of the $160,000 budget for this year's rally will target safety concerns, with Westrick being at the helm, overseeing law enforcement and medical requirements. 

“The budget is built around the needs of the rally,” Westrick said. “When we first looked at the budget in 2013, it was from the standpoint of what we need for a successful event and for a worst-case scenario. We quickly realized we needed some sort of medical capability, such as a field hospital or medical staff. So, we’ll have a small field hospital and a couple of ambulances, as well as roving medics on bicycles.”

Westrick said there will be three command centers where the rally will be monitored via overhead cameras installed throughout downtown Hollister. Law enforcement personnel will be present but low-key, with most officers coming from outside the area, which will free up Hollister officers to supervise and continue patrolling the rest of the city while the rally continues. He said for the past six months city leaders and Burke have been meeting monthly to discuss expectations involving all city departments, plus contracts.

“Our goal every year is for the police to part of the background or the scenery,” Westrick said. “You’re not going to see police officers in intersections. They will be interacting with people. We hire good people who want to be here. Obviously, we just want it to be safe and we can do this by recognizing small problems as they occur and we deploy our officers before they become big problems.”

Where fireworks are concerned, Westrick said that for the first time since he has been the chief, his department will be enforcing fireworks laws.

“I will use as many of the officers as are available to patrol, with three or four officers working on just fireworks, along with regular officers,” he said. “I don’t know what the minimum fines are, but they max out at about $1,000 for the illegal fireworks, not the safe-and-sane ones. These include the aerial fireworks as well as the M80s and other big ones.”

Velazquez has been a mainstay in supporting the rally, but he has consistently contended that it can hardly be deemed successful if there is a debate every year whether to hold it. He said the big issue on everybody’s minds is whether the city can make money from the rallies.

“In government, you can’t just say we want to make $1 million off of this, therefore, we’re going to charge you $1 million, but it only cost us $200,000 to provide the services,” he said. “All we can charge a promoter is the cost to run the operation. Anything extra that comes in because of increased business that’s a plus for the community.”

Except for a minor issue with licensing, Velazquez said the city recouped all expenses for last year’s rally. He said there was some confusion last year and this year’s event is expected to run much more smoothly, supporting his contention, he said, that one promoter should run the rally for several years.

“Without committing to this long-term you’re looking to fail because each year you’re trying to change something,” he said. “You can’t plan around a one-year deal. Each year we go through this scenario asking why we need it, do we need it? It’s difficult for a promoter when he doesn’t know if he even has it next year. He wants to negotiate with sponsors and be able to say he has a five-year contract and it’s growing at a certain pace.”

The mayor said that when the city first considered holding the rally, there was a plan to commit for 10 years, but within a year, people were questioning whether it should be held. He said he has pushed for a long-term agreement, but he and Councilman Ray Friend have been stymied each year by the other three council members.

“They have concerns about the rally and I don’t,” Velazquez said. “The problem is understanding that to do it right and do it safe you need a long-term commitment, and make sure all the players involved are part of that commitment. This promoter did a good job last year and I think most people feel that way. We’ll look at it again this year to see if the rest of the council feels that way. And the community needs to decide if they want it or don’t want it.”

Velazquez said what is important is that the city council decides, once and for all, if it wants a rally. If not, it should be done away with, he said.

For more information on the 2017 Independence Rally, visit its website

About:
John Chadwell (John Chadwell)

Former U.S. Navy Combat Photojournalist. Award-winning writer for magazine, newspapers, radio and television. BA in Journalism and Mass Communications from Chapman University. Graduate studies at USC Cinema School. Also, author of eight novels, copywriter and scriptwriter.

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