I am still a little dumbstruck over Monday night’s unanimous city council decision to sanction our motorcycle rally for ten years. I had been praying for a five year commitment but ten years was more than I could fathom. I was sitting next to Mike Corbin when the ordinance passed and it couldn’t have been more appropriate. I turned to him and asked, “Did you ever think we would see this day?” He seemed to be as astounded as I was. We have been in the battle to promote, save, and then resurrect the Hollister Motorcycle Rally for seventeen long years and it was a poignant moment for both of us. Mike Corbin of Corbin Motorcycle Seat fame was in the battle before I knew anything about the famed Hollister “riots” of 1947.

When I bought Johnny’s Bar & Grill in December of 1995 I was completely ignorant to the place my new found business held in history. The bar’s name had been changed to It’s Showtime by the previous owner one year earlier. I knew that the bar had a place in the heart of locals as Johnny’s for decades and changing the name back was the first thing on my agenda. As I look back now I can’t help but think about how different things would have been. It’s hard to picture hoards of motorcyclists flocking to It’s Showtime.

By the time I bought the famous bar plans were already in the works to hold a 1997 motorcycle rally to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the fated event that put Hollister on the map. Mike and many of his motorcycle associates started the ball rolling for an event early in 1995 and he moved his Castroville factory to Hollister in December of 1996 because of it. Mike Corbin was the one person more personally affected by the rally cancellation than I was.

When the rally was cancelled Mike kept the spirit alive with his annual Independence Weekend Corbin Open House and I did my best by hosting a three day party at Johnny’s. When the Hollister Motorcycle Rally Committee was formed to bring the rally back in 2006, Mike and I both put our money where our mouth was (Mike a lot of money and time, me a lot more mouth and time) and we helped to get the rally back on track in 2007. It was great to have it back but the change of venue (moving the bikes to side streets and vendors to San Benito Street) did not go over well with rally faithfuls. With attendance lower in 2008 and the law enforcement bill continuing to rise, the rally was once again cancelled.

It had been almost five long years without a rally and even though Mike’s one day event at the Corbin factory drew thousands of bikers to Hollister for the day, it couldn’t begin to compensate for the lack of a rally. I continued to host a three day party at Johnny’s but by 2012 I spent most of the weekend crying in my beer with my Boozefighter buddies. The same club that rode their bikes into my bar in 1947 could be counted on to return every Fourth of July weekend. Without them I would have lost my mind over the loss of revenue.

I prepared for this year’s rally knowing that it would be great but it surpassed my expectations. It was the best one ever. Mark Creswell of Worldwide Dynamics was at the helm and he knows his business and did a fabulous job.

I must give credit where credit is due and without our wonderful new police chief Dave Westrick in place none of it would have been possible. If Chief Westrick followed in his predecessor’s footsteps and hired swat teams and helicopters to police the event we’d be right back where we were with the city in the red and angry. Not only did he cut law enforcement costs in half but his crew shared his positive attitude and peaceful demeanor and it made all the difference in the world. And I get to say a big, “I told you so.” I’ve said for years that it all starts at the top and with a good man like Dave Westrick as chief of police we can finally make our rally what it should have been years ago, the Sturgis of the West Coast.

The Hollister Downtown Association has graciously offered to run the event with the help of Mark Creswell and a five year contract with the city is being drawn up. Thank you Brenda Weatherly and the HDA team. With the Street Festival growing in popularity every year it’s obvious that you folks know what you are doing.

A huge thank you to our city council members, acting city manager Bill Avera’ and most of all Chief Dave Westrick.

 

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4 Responses to A Monumental Decision for our Hollister Motorcycle Rally

  1. Rich says:

    I’m glad to see you guys restored this tradition for us bikers on Fourth of July weekend. We had a great time and everyone did a fantastic job from the bartenders to the men and women in uniform. I plan on riding up with a large group next year and try to help restore Bolado Park to what it used to be. Everyone used to camp there and enjoy the festivities. We will be there and you can count on me to spread the word.

    Rich

    • Charisse says:

      I’m hoping that Bolado gets back on track too. I think it should be another venue offered to bikers during the rally with camping, concerts and plenty of biker friendly events.

      • S. L. says:

        The problem with Bolado is that the neighbors were complaining about the noise. The old Rally committee tried to work it out.

        • Charisse says:

          It is still amazing to me that one man who knew full well that a fairgrounds was in close proximity to his house either before he built it or before he bought it, had the audacity, and then the clout to get an ordinance put in place that restricted a county fairgrounds from holding concerts and making money for the community. It’s about time the board of supervisors revisited the stupid ordinance and did what was best for the county. The man that started all the ruckus is a self centered individual who should tolerate a little inconvenience for the better of his community. Dave Grimsley even offered to send him and his entire family to Hawaii for the week of the rally and he refused and blazed forward with his agenda. What’s hard to believe is that a board of supervisors would go along with it. That was another example of the good-old-boys looking out for each other. I pray the new board is better than that now. Even if the ordinance doesn’t get resolved next year, camping, vendors and daytime entertainment should be in place.

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Contact Information

Johnny’s Bar & Grill
526 San Benito Street
Hollister, CA 95023

Phone: (831) 637-3683
Email Us HERE

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Grill:
Mon to Sat   11 am – 9 pm
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Sunday  Bar-B-Que 1 pm

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