Police Chief David Westrick told BenitoLink on Saturday that Friday, the first night of the three-night Hollister Freedom Rally, “went fairly smoothly. It was kind of a nice night. The emergency ordinance (banning alcohol after midnight) worked out just fine. There was no problem last night. As far as the vendors are concerned, we had no citations.”
Westrick said there was no unruly biker but “I got a lot of high-fives and a lot of thank-yous. It’s been great. We have a very supportive community. And most (bikers) that come here realize that we’re very hospitable. And it is truly a chance for us to show how great Hollister is.”
Westrick attended Friday night’s headliner concert, by The Fabulous Thunderbirds, and said it went well. On Saturday night, The Guess Who took center stage and Westrick said, “I expect the same tonight.”
The Fabulous Thunderbirds is a mixed rock and blues band that released their first album in the late 1980s. The band has opened for, among others, Eric Clapton and The Rolling Stones. Some of their original music wasused in a handful of movies in the mid-1980s. In 2000, they made history when they broadcasted the first live concert on the Internet.
The Guess Who is a Canadian pop-rock band that started in the late 1960s and was a hit-maker through the 1970s. Older fans will remember some of their hits: "These Eyes," "American Woman," "Undun" and "Clap for the Wolfman.
The caliber of this year’s entertainment headliners has been praised by both visitors and rally staff members. It wouldn’t have been possible without the connections of Vegas event producer and this year’s rally organizer, ConvExx’s Chuck Schwartz.
He told BenitoLink, “I have an agent and (The Fabulous Thunderbirds and The Guess Who) are both talents for all our events. I contracted him to do that. And he also did the staging, production, the lights and sound. And we did it behind Wells Fargo (between Sixth and East streets). And it went down pretty well.”
Schwartz added, “We are motorcycle people. We’ve been doing motorcycle events for 20 years. Hollister is, like, the most iconic rally and there are a lot of people who think it's Sturgis (South Dakota). But a movie was made (about motorcycle riders) because of (what happened in) Hollister (in 1947). And it’s just so unique being in downtown. Monday – there’s nothing here, then 50,000 (bikers) will show up. It has a lot of excitement to it and we saw an opportunity to increase the value of the rally. And when I say this, that’s to the bikers. And we’re doing everything we can to create activities to make new opportunities. We’re building it up. We’re making it not just profitable for the people of Hollister but an event that they will really love and they’d want to be here.”
Westrick said the six to eight months they spent in planning the day-to-day activities for the rally made it so that there were no surprises as of Saturday afternoon.
Bikers continued to roll in to San Benito County on Saturday. The familiar blare of rock, pop and even disco music from their bikes announced the new arrivals. Some visitors whipped out smart devices to capture images of their favorite bikes. More than a few of the bikers obliged and turned around for another pass.
The young and the old mixed, bonded by their fascination for motorbikes, classic and new.