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Thousands more come to town for Day 2 of rally

The second day of the Hollister Independence Rally heats up with the weather, huge crowds and thousands of motorcycles
The heat is on as thousands of bikers cruise up and down San Benito Street.
Vets Plaza is filled with custom bikes and gawkers.
Sara Smith, left, and her mom, Patty Marfia, have seen a 50 percent surge in sales.
Sandwiches are the mainstay at Fisher's Delicatessen during the rally.
Hollister Police Chief David Westrick does an interview for KION-TV.
There was no more room inside Johnny's Bar & Grill.
Christina Kutsch, of Harley-Davidson, said more than 100 people the first day took demo rides on new Harleys.
Shawn Wells, from the House of Thunder in Morgan Hill, said there wasn't anymore room to park a bike on San Benito St.
Randy Burke said Roadshows put out some 90 trash containers.
Bikers shopping downtown.

On Saturday, July 2, the second day of the Hollister Independence Rally, neither Hollister Police Chief David Westrick nor Randy Burke, president of Reno, Nevada-based Roadshows Inc., would venture a guess as to how many people were slogging along shoulder-to-shoulder on either side of San Benito Street, or attempting to cruise between thousands of motorcycles parked in neat rows.

“If you can’t get any more bikes parked on San Benito, then there are at least 4,000 there,” Westrick said before noon while inside rally headquarters at The Vault. “And the way you can tell it’s really crowded is when bikes are parked on the side streets, and every side street is full right now.”

Burke described Friday, the first day of the rally, as a great dress rehearsal for the first time he has been in Hollister as the rally’s promoter.

“We were able to tighten everything down and get it the way we like,” he said. “This is the biggest crowd I’ve ever seen here. When they hit this morning, everybody was ready to go.”

Burke described the snafu on opening day that prevented the company-run beer gardens from operating as a mismatch of addresses for the beer gardens and the company’s non-profit company on paperwork overseen by the Board of Equalization (BOE) and the Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC). 

“We had to pretty much start at square one and redo all the paperwork, and it took about five hours,” he said.

The irony, if it can be called that, was that several staff members of the BOE were sitting at a table inside The Vault a few feet from where Burke was working.

Burke credited Mayor Ignacio Velazquez for helping resolve the problem.

“He got on the telephone and talked to somebody and all of a sudden the gears started moving,” Burke said. “It was part of the dress rehearsal. I had 15 uniformed security officers and people who would pour the beer who were being paid sitting around for five hours. And all the bands were on stand-by. It’s called the cost of doing business.”

Such setbacks happen often at outdoor festivals, Burke noted, but he said a month ago he said it took a couple of days to get the paperwork done and was amazed he was able to get the same thing done in five hours.

“Somewhere along the line somebody made a judgment call,” he said. “And the interesting thing is that the people who were supposed to collect the tax weren’t making any money because we weren’t making any money.”

He said everything is more on Day 2: bigger crowds, more motorcycles, more workers, and more sandwiches.

“With our staff yesterday we ordered 30 sandwiches (from the Veterans Memorial Building),” Burke said, “then we had to order another 20 sandwiches. This morning, we just got 70 sandwiches delivered to us because we increased the staff again.”

At the opposite end of the rally's San Benito Street perimeter, at the Veterans Memorial Building, Joe Love, former commander of American Legion Post 69, said the rally was the best one in recent years where veterans are concerned.

“This year, veterans get to use our own building for our own gig,” he said. “In the past, we always had to split the money with the promoters. It just wasn’t right.  This is our building and we should be doing our own thing. This promoter (Burke), when he came in, he said he didn’t want anything to do with it. It’s yours. He’s done right by the vets, and I tell you if I’ve got a vote he’s coming back.”

While some stores and restaurants along San Benito Street were closed, most were not, especially any place where food and drinks were being served. But one little boutique that had neither—unless you count the ice chest out front where they were selling bottled water—was doing a bang-up business, according to Sara Smith co-owner along with her mom, Patty Marfia, of Johnnie’s Girl, at 535 San Benito St.

“This is our first rally and it’s been awesome,” Smith said. “We were ready for it. We supped up our biker and patriotic inventory, and the rest of the shop is what we have most of the time.”

Sales are up by at least 50 percent, and the exposure to the thousands walking past the shop or meandering through the aisle was just as good, she believes. Smith said the store is named after her brother, who died four years ago.

“It was just something my mom and I wanted to do together and it gives us a purpose, and we love it,” she said.

Mike Fisher opened Fisher’s Delicatessen and Catering at 650 San Benito St. in March, with the idea of bringing a touch of fine-dining to town. Typically, his dishes require time and expertise to finesse the taste of a meal for people not in a hurry. Though he has worked large dining venues before, this is his first Independence Rally and he knew he would have to up the ante a bit, when it comes to serving time, knowing that people frequenting a biker’s rally most likely would not want to stand in long lines to sit down to a plate of fresh halibut or a thick steak.

“We’re changing our menu to a much higher volume type of service,” Fisher said. “I’m making some assumptions, but I’m going to do fewer salads and more toward a cheese steak sandwich, a pulled-pork sandwich. We’re still using great ingredients, but we’re just going to simplify it with a bag of chips. That way everybody gets their food in a timely manner, hopefully in two minutes.”

One thing his establishment is not normally known for is having security at the door.

“We’ll be having one entrance, at the front door, as opposed to multiple entrances,” he said. “We want to make sure to have a chance to ask people if they want a drink and they can show the security guard their ID and he will stamp their hand.”

Westrick is an omnipresent figure throughout the rally, from first light to late at night. He described the Saturday crowd simply as “massive" and, as of Saturday afternoon, well-behaved.

“We had a total of nine arrests, mostly for alcohol,” he said.

He addressed the one issue of no tolerance: weapons.

“There are no weapons (allowed) at all,” he said. “That includes pocket knives, chains, it could be a crowbar, anything like that downtown. Our policy is to say it's prohibited downtown and they need to take it back to their bike or car.”

Westrick said all the venues are full, including the Corbin bike show at the Veterans' Building and the Harley-Davidson demo rides.

At Sixth and East streets, Harley-Davidson was out in force with 27 new bikes to show off, with more than 100 people getting a chance to ride one through a predetermined course of about eight miles. Christina Kutsch, a member of the consumer marketing division, said of the company’s first appearance at the rally that they wanted to take advantage of what they see as a great opportunity because there would be lots of Harley riders.

“We wanted to bring our road tour to Hollister so they can try out our bikes,” she said. “We have 27 bikes here for demo and an additional bike on our Jump Start unit, which is a fun experience if you’ve never been a rider.”

If someone wants to ride one of the Harleys, all they need is a valid motorcycle driver’s license, a helmet, eye protection, long pants, be at least 18 years old.

“Just come on down and we’ll get you signed up for a nice little ride through the country,” Kutsch said. “We have a route marked with arrows and it’s real easy to follow. We had about 100 rides yesterday, but it was kind of slow. We’re seeing a lot more people today and I expect that number to be much higher.”

She said her group is strictly in town to provide demonstration rides. If someone actually wants to buy a Harley, their directed over to a nearby tent where the House of Thunder, the Morgan Hill dealership, will be more than happy to accommodate them.

Shawn Wells, sales floor manager at House of Thunder, said he was amazed at the turnout.

“I was here yesterday and it wasn’t nearly as busy as it is today,” he said. “It opened up at 9 o’clock, and by 10:30 you couldn’t get another bike down here on this side of town. They keep coming in waves, and the Harley-Davidson Motor Company behind us is packed, and we’ve been grabbing all the leads, the guys coming off the demos.”

He said this is his first year at the rally. The new owners of the dealership wanted to be here.

“As long as it keeps growing we’ll be here every year,” he said. “It’s been great. Everyone is having a good time.”

Saturday, July 2

7:30a – Noon All you can eat pancake breakfast at United Methodist Church, corner of 5 th & Monterey (inside)
8:00a – 9:00p VIP registration at The Vault, corner of San Benito & 5th
9:00a – 9:00p Vendors open for business
9:00a – 5:00p Harley-Davidson factory demo rides, corner of 6th & East
9:00a – 6:00p Wild One Saloon in the Veteran’s Hall open for business
9:00a – 5:00p Corbin Bike Competition at the Veteran’s Hall
10:00a – 5:00p Mike Baker soloist at the Veteran’s Hall
10:00a – 2:00p Motley Cruella Band on the Harley-Davidson Main Stage at Coors Beer Garden next to The Vault, corner of 4th St. & San Benito
11:00a – 3:00p Beer Drinkers and Hell Raisers Band on the GEICO 6 th St. Stage at Coors Beer Garden
11:00a – 3:00p Moondance Band on the Russ Brown Attorneys 7 th St. Stage at Coors Beer Garden
11:45a Straight Up Harley-Davidson Motorcycle Stunt show, 7th St. West
1:45p Monte Perlin’s Globe Of Death stunt show, 7th St. West
2:45p Slow Bike Races on 7th St. West presented by Russ Brown Attorneys
3:00 – 5:00p Caravanserai Santana Tribute Band on the Harley-Davidson Main Stage next to The Vault
3:45p Straight Up Harley-Davidson® Motorcycle Stunt show, 7th St. West
4:00 – 8:00p Lucky Tongue Band on the GEICO 6 th St. Stage at Coors Beer Garden
4:00 – 8:00p Mike Osborne Band on the Russ Brown Attorneys 7 th St. Stage at Coors Beer Garden
4:45p Monte Perlin’s Globe Of Death stunt show, 7th St. West
5:45p Straight Up Harley-Davidson Motorcycle Stunt show, 7th St. West
6:00 – 8:00p Savannah Blue Southern Rock Band on the Harley-Davidson Main Stage at Coors Beer Garden next to The Vault, corner of 4th St. & San Benito
6:45p Slow Bike Races on 7th St. West presented by Russ Brown Attorneys
8:00p Monte Perlin’s Globe Of Death stunt show, 7th St. West

Sunday, July 3

7:30a – noon All you can eat pancake breakfast at United Methodist Church, corner of 5 th & Monterey (inside)
9:00a – 5:00p Vendors open for business
9:00a – 5:00p Harley-Davidson factory demo rides, corner of 6th & East
10:30a JC and US Ministry service at the 7th St. West stunt show globe
11:00a Straight Up Harley-Davidson Motorcycle Stunt show, 7th St. West
11:45a Monte Perlin’s Globe Of Death stunt show, 7th St. West
Noon – 4:00p Lucky Tongue Band on the GEICO 6 th St. Stage at Coors Beer Garden
Noon – 4:00p Jason King Soloist on the Russ Brown Attorneys 7 th St. Stage at Coors Beer Garden
Noon – 4:00p Beer Drinkers and Hell Raisers Band on the Harley-Davidson Main Stage next to The Vault inside the Coors Beer Garden
12:45p Slow Bike Races on 7th St. West presented by Russ Brown Attorneys
1:45 Straight Up Harley-Davidson® Motorcycle Stunt show, 7th St. West
2:45p Monte Perlin’s Globe Of Death stunt show, 7th St. West
3:45p Straight Up Harley-Davidson Motorcycle Stunt show, 7th St. West
4:45p Monte Perlin’s Globe Of Death stunt show, 7th St. West

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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