Business / Economy

Promoter Says City Will Make Money Off Motorcycle Rally

Reno-based promoter comes to Hollister to brief residents, businesses and city officials on its plans for motorcycle rally
John Chadwell photo

Words can be cheap or even meaningless. But if what Roadshows Inc. had to say March 30 at The Vault to residents, business people and city officials about its plans for the 2016 Hollister Independence Rally is factual, then this year’s event just might generate confidence locally and bring many thousands of motorcycle enthusiasts to the world-famous event.

The clincher, as Randy Burke, president of Roadshows Inc., promised, “We’ll make money and the city will make money.”

Juli Vieira, president and CEO of the San Benito County Chamber of Commerce and Visitors' Bureau, asked those who came to listen to think forward and not dwell on the past.

“We know what happened in the past, but we’ve got new promoters now,” she said. “Let’s just move forward and make sure this is a great year for our city.”

Brian Holt, owner of Official Gear Co., out of Daytona Beach, Fla., and one of three partners of Roadshows Inc., said the company, as a last-minute choice by the Hollister City Council, had only begun working on the rally in late February. He said the rally website,, as well as a Facebook page had recently been activated. As information folders were handed out, he mentioned the most recent negotiations between Roadshows, Harley-Davidson and Indian Motorcycles.

Holt pointed out that the company believed that in the past the city had not been provided much in the way of communications from former promoters. He said he wanted the people of Hollister to know everything he knew, and that was the reason for the meeting and materials being handed out, including a folder with original cover art, designed just for the Hollister rally.

“It’s very classic and indicative of the heritage of the event, right down to the motorcycle used in the movie, The Wild One,” Holt said of the folder’s cover. “We’ve been producing shows across the United States almost 25 years, and I think we’ve made every mistake in the book and we try not to make any of them twice, so we’ve probably learned a little bit along the way.”

As he guided those in the room through the program, Holt told them that contracts have been signed with four bands to perform during the rally. He said local groups are chosen whenever possible and that the four bands are from the Bay Area. He told how Carlos Santana was upset and very vocal about no local bands being used during the Super Bowl.

“We were paying attention to Carlos and we thought with our budget we wanted to get high-quality tribute bands because they work well within our price range, and we wanted to have something that’s indicative of this area,” Holt said. “I’ve been inundated by band requests and probably have reviewed 35 to 40 bands. We went with ones we thought would be good for the demographic of the customer that’s coming to this event.”

When asked what the demographic looked like, Holt said the average person that the company targets in its marketing is 45 to 75 years old, with an average income of $92,000, and owns one or more motorcycles. He said an important part of that demographic is the increasing number of women who ride their own bikes and the declining cost of motorcycles.

The four bands chosen (there may be more) are: Zepparella, a four-woman Led Zeppelin tribute group that he said was a huge hit in Sturgis; Caravanserai, a Santana tribute band from Sacramento; Journey Revisited, a Journey tribute band also from Sacramento that performs at many of the casinos at Lake Tahoe and Las Vegas; and Savannah Blue, a southern rock band, that tours many of the motorcycle shows.

Frankie Gallagher, a Chamber of Commerce member, asked where the bands would be performing. Holt said the company is in town for three days to “blueprint the venue,” but said if he had to make a guess, a mobile stage would be built next to The Vault.

“That will be our main stage,” he said, adding that two satellite stages would be placed on each side of San Benito Street. “We will not have less than three stages, and we may have more.”

Another person asked if there would be any bands at Bolado Park. Holt said since this is the first time Roadshows has produced the rally, it wanted to concentrate on doing the best job downtown. He said Bolado Park is already an event partner, which is included on the official website, and the company is actively soliciting RV and campsites through the website and Facebook page. He said a shuttle would be provided Hollister Powersports to take people back and forth between Bolado Park and the event downtown.

When asked if there will be any fees, Randy Burke said everything associated with the rally is free to the general public, including the bands. There is, however, a $60 per-rider fee for VIPs, who will receive gifts and entry into the poker run/walk, slow bike races and parking. Holt said while the rally is an adult event, the company doesn’t produce any event that isn’t family-friendly. He described the running of the event as the “Disney Standard,” which will be appropriate for any audience.

Holt said every effort has been made to bring back traditional motorcycle-related entertainment. These include the Globe-O-Death Stunt Show, bike competitions sponsored by Corbin’s, a slow bike race, where the winner has the slowest time, winery poker runs open to VIPs only, and the Harley demo fleet of 25 or more motorcycles, which he said will give people with motorcycle licenses an opportunity to ride new Harley-Davidson motorcycles on a 10-mile route through the countryside.

“We’ll be bringing in motorcycles from all around the United States for the biker competition, which will be held in front of the Veterans Memorial Building,” Holt said. “It will be sanctioned by the International Master Bike Builders Association. Some of them will be museum pieces. The event is being sponsored by Mike Corbin.”

The bike competition will run for two days, he added, with the first day dedicated to “old school choppers,” with the second day for open category competition. He described the event as a “big deal where judges don’t just pick the pretty one, and will be a true competition for the masters of the art.”

Burke brought up the topic of food.

“We don’t want to spread out the food like it has been in the past,” he said. “It’s easier to have food courts rather than spread it all over town. And there will be plenty of shade. We’ve heard that in the past shade was non-existent, so we’re going to bring as much shade as we possibly can.”

Cesar “Hollywood” Flores, a member of the Top Hatters motorcycle club, objected to one of the show rules in the program that stated there will be, “no club colors worn or sold in vendor booths,” which he said eliminates the club.

Holt thanked Flores for pointing out the rule and explained that the list is a “boiler plate” for all of the company’s events. He said the company could get together with city officials and talk to the club.

“We’re not out to alienate anyone and we want all of the community to be involved,” Holt said. “I’m sure we can find an accommodation. We’re not here to kick anybody out, including ourselves.”

Flores told BenitoLink the rule is a bigger deal than the promoters realize because he is affiliated with 46 different clubs that will not come if they can't promote or display their colors.

Holt went on to explain the VIP program.

“If somebody wants to be pampered, we create situations where they get a special shirt, VIP badges, VIP parties, parking, and poker runs,” he said. “We have one major sponsor that has already selected 20 of these VIPs. This was created just for our sponsors, but about 15 years ago a guy came up to us at Street Vibrations in Reno, and said he wanted to be a VIP. Right now at Street Vibrations we have 1,700 people a year who sign up to be VIPs who have nothing to do with our sponsorship program. They are a sponsor unto themselves.”

Burke said The Vault, which is owned by Hollister Mayor Ignacio Velazquez, would be transformed into the official welcome center and VIP area. He said the Chamber of Commerce and Bolado Park will also set up in the building.

“We’ll have signs in here from our main sponsors,” Burke said. “This is the perfect location when you come into town and will serve as our main hub to take care of VIPs or people who want to pick up their pocket guides, or have meetings with some of our sponsors.”

The pocket guides will include information for the entire event, as well as ads for sponsors and local businesses. There will be coupons that could benefit local businesses. Burke said, depending on sponsorship, anywhere from 6,000 to 10,000 will be printed.

Burke said the Veterans Memorial building will serve as a command center where rally workers and computing capabilities will be set up. He added that the vets would control the building this year.

Mike Corbin suggested that music be provided in the vicinity of the bike show. He also said, in support of Cesar Flores’ comment about club colors, that patch holders have played an important role in bringing the rally back to life.

“I don’t think that patch holders in display booths create a problem,” he said. “That’s just my opinion.”

Holt responded, “We’ve been respecting your opinion for 25 years, Mike, and I don’t think that’s going to change.”

Burke told Corbin that it was possible to set up another, perhaps smaller music venue, near the bike show.

Vieira asked if small businesses might be able to partner in paying for an ad to make it more affordable.

Holt said, “We’re in the ‘yes’ business. We try to always say 'yes.' If it can happen we certainly would accommodate that.”

Burke commented that no matter where a person goes in the world, there are people who know about Hollister.

“There’s not a larger bike rally on the West Coast,” he said. “That’s why there’s interest from Harley, Indian and GEICO. They feel there’s a benefit for them to be here. Next year is the 70th anniversary, which will be an extremely big year. Because of relationships we’ve had over the years they realize that Hollister has a name. It’s very hard to build a brand. The brand is already here and it’s just a matter of execution.”

Holt said the company has been marketing the Hollister event at all of its other events across the country.

“We started marketing in Daytona Beach the first week in March,” he said. “By the time the event happens in July, we will have attended or campaigned in more than 17 different events across the United States selling the city of Hollister. In about six days we’re going to Arizona for Arizona Bike Week in three different locations. They will have over 100,000 people over a seven or eight-day period and we will meet with more than 200 vendors. At Daytona we met with 320 vendors. And at Street Vibrations in September we will have more than 300 vendors and 40 of them are from Florida, which goes to show you that we have an ability to draw the companies and manufacturers to our events.”

The economic benefits of just one manufacturer, Harley-Davidson, coming to the event will benefit local businesses, Holt said, noting that the company will bring up to 18 employees, who will stay eight to 10 days, which will create an influx of money into the community.

When Tom Walerius voiced some skepticism, based on past promoter behavior, of how much the city will benefit, Burke explained that the company has already been working with the city on permit fee issues, as well as the Board of Equalization, to make sure vendors pay taxes.

“We’ve talked to them to make sure Hollister gets its fair share of taxes,” he said. “We’ll make a change on the application to where the money actually goes. It goes directly back here and not, if someone is from Florida, to Florida. We’ve already addressed those issues because we know the city council wants to see that happen.”

Vieira said that some businesses have complained that there are so many people on the sidewalks during the event that others can’t get into their businesses, and asked if Roadshows had any ideas that worked in other cities to accommodate local stores. Burke said since this was the first year for them to produce the show they didn’t want to “change the footprint,” but said changes could be made in the future, if approved by the police department.

“The problem is we have to have enough room for a fire truck,” he said, pointing out that the streets are too narrow to move vendors to any degree and keep a path open for emergency vehicles. “That’s the challenge, and I understand the businesses feeling that there are so many people on the street and they don’t get inside their businesses. I don’t know the solution to that.”

The Roadshows Inc. partners said they would be in Hollister for the next three days, holding various meetings with the police and city as they continue to fine tune their plans for the July 1-3 rally.

John Chadwell

John Chadwell is a freelance photojournalist with additional experience as a copywriter, ghostwriter, scriptwriter, and novelist. He is a former U.S. Navy Combat Photojournalist and is an award-winning writer, having worked for magazine, newspapers, radio and television. He has a BA in Journalism and Mass Communications from Chapman University and graduate studies at USC Cinema School. John worked as a scriptwriting consultant, and his own script, "God's Club," was produced and released in 2016. He has also written eight novels, ranging from science fiction to true crime, which are sold on Amazon. To contact John Chadwell, send an email to: [email protected]