The crowds were smaller on San Benito Street, but the bikes were still plentiful for the last day of the Hollister Freedom Rally, which wrapped up July 5.
"I don't think there's as many people," said Jeff Valdez, of Watsonville. "It's not as crowded, but it's just as nice." He added, "It's easier to get around and seems like it's less rowdy with less people."
"I usually come on Friday and Saturday when it's really busy and crowded," said Bill Powers, of San Jose. "But at least today I can get easy parking on the main street."
Valdez, who attended the rally on both Friday and Sunday, said, "It's fun for us bikers to see different bikes and bikers from other cities."
"I had a great time here. It was a bigger blowout than last year," said Felipe Nunez, of Hollister. "Seeing all the bikes and everyone together is the best part. I've been going since I was a kid, and I'm glad they brought it back." When asked if he noticed an increase or decrease from prior years, Nunez said, "Definitely more people. Shoulder-to-shoulder walking." He attended all three days of the rally.
"It was a good venue and I met a lot of nice people. It was really friendly," said Ian Longmead, who came from Antelope Valley to attend all three days of the Freedom Rally. "It was cool watching all the bikes roll in."
"The weather was beautiful. You couldn't have asked for a better experience," said Emma Garcia, of Antelope Valley, who attended the Freedom Rally for the first time this year.
Garcia rode with boyfriend Longmead to the event, but she still got a chance to see what being in control of a motorcycle was like when she visited the booth where a Yamaha was placed on a roller. "I could experience riding. I was safe and didn't get hurt," she said.
When asked about the police presence, Valdez said, "I don't see them that much. But it's what keeps the crowds calm, so I think it's a good thing to have them around."
Longmead noted, "It's amazing how bikers can be so friendly. Everybody here was good."
Garcia echoed Longmead's sentiment, saying, "It was nice and everybody was really friendly."
"It's a good, friendly group of people and there's no issues that seem to be going on," Powers said. He noted that in his 50 years of riding, he's been to the Hollister rally every year it's been held.
For Martha Hoffman, of Cupertino, this year's rally was her first event on her own bike, a 2011 Sportster. "I just bought the bike, so I'm looking for things to add onto it." When asked about her experience at Hollister, she said, "I love it. You have to be cautious with everyone around you, but other than that I just love it."
A bike blessing was held Sunday at Sacred Heart Church, just in time before the riders headed out on their trips home. Fr. Ranier and Fr. Jeff presided over the ceremony, mixing humor and reverence before going around the church parking lot to bless the dozens of motorcycles present.
"Wherever we go, we need a blessing," said Ranier. "There are many dangers out there."
"The machines are so heavy. Some of them a thousand pounds," said Fr. Jeff. "And one has to be really be careful, on speed and on corners. I bless them because I'm planning to see them again next year."
This was the first time fathers Ranier and Jeff presided over such a ceremony. "When Fr. Jeff Rudy asked me to do the blessing, I was thrilled to do it," said Fr. Ranier. Regarding his own interest in the ceremony, Fr. Ranier said, "I have my own bike, a Harley Davidson 1200. I love seeing people on their bikes and wanted to be part of it."
For Hoffman, the Sunday bike blessing was one of her main reasons for attending the Freedom Rally. "I've never been to a bike blessing, but I have friends who have," she said. "You never know when you're out on the road. You need all the blessings you can get to stay safe out there."
"It can't hurt to have it done," said Powers. "Everything you do to be safe, including having your bike blessed, is worth doing."
With the event's festivities drifting off into the rear view mirror, many of the bikers said they're looking ahead to future Hollister Freedom Rallies.
"I'll be back next year. Hollister's close for me," said Powers. "It's a good event, and a good vibe."
When asked about his plans for wrapping up the festivities, Nunez said, "Finishing off is better. Bumping oldies going downtown is good!"
Regarding her own plans after leaving the rally, Garcia said, "We're going to San Juan Bautista to have dinner because we won one of the raffles." She noted she also won a tattoo, which would be her first if she took up the prize to get the ink.
Valdez said he already looks forward to next year. He explained what made the event fun for him was, "seeing all the bikes, seeing a lot of friends, and having a good time."
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