Everybody who has ever been to any major biker event knows that the things are designed, first and foremost, to be a spectacular profit making opportunity for every police department within a hundred miles.
What Christmas is to Macys, biker rallies are to backwater police departments in and surrounding burgs like Sturgis, Laconia and Laughlin. Unless the cops are guaranteed a week’s worth of triple overtime, the local business leaders don’t get to charge the bikers quadruple for hotel rooms, tee shirts and beer and the local governments can’t realize their yearly windfall in sales taxes, room taxes, entertainment taxes, traffic tickets, fines and vendor fees.
If your town wants to hold a biker rally, the first thing you need to know is that the cops have to get paid or else they cannot guarantee the safety of your town’s citizens. Who knows what might happen unless you clone Barney Fife a thousand times and give every one of him a machine gun and tell all thousand of him to watch for “possible violations.”
Oh yeah. And, all those Barneys are going to cost you $120,000 a day.
A Little History
The cops have been doing this song and dance ever since Independence Day, 1947.
In case you are just joining us, that was the weekend when a bunch of motorcycle enthusiasts recently returned from the Second World War decided that Main Street in sleepy, little Hollister, California was as good a place as any to drag race their bikes.
Life Magazine ran a photograph of a drunken oaf, lounging on a motorcycle surrounded by many, many empties. It was a staged photo but it came to represent the burgeoning “motorcycle menace.” Marlon Brando and Lee Marvin made a movie about it.
“What are you protesting against,” was the question everybody asked these motorcycle outlaws.
And, “What have you got,” became the answer that defined the Harley world until the advent of the Rich Urban Biker and the motorcycle fashion show sometime after 1990.
Actually, on second thought, it wasn’t just sometime after 1990. It was exactly 1997. That was the year Hollister decided it was time to cash in.
Remember The Good, Old days
The fathers of the good town of Hollister became so convinced that Harley riders were a harmless bunch of toothless, old accountants that they threw a “Fiftieth Anniversary Rally,” commemorating the original motorcycle riot. And, of course Hollister was shocked when police told them that there was a possibility that actual bikers might show up.
The Hollister Rally has run every year since ’97 except for 2006 without another riot breaking out. And, the reason for this comparative peace has been because of either the gentler nature of today’s modern bikers or because of outstanding police work performed by massive numbers of police.
For a few years, this question of whether peace was a product of really polite bikers or really rude police was actually the subject of some political debate.
Then Came 2002
Then came the watershed year of 2002 and the cops finally made their case by pointing to the Four Corners Iron Horse Rally. The Iron Horse was a great run that coalesced every year on Labor Day weekend from 1993 through 2002 on the Southern Ute reservation near Durango, Colorado. The last year of the rally was the year of the great animosity in Laughlin between members of the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club and members of the Mongols Motorcycle Club.
So, that year, all of the Four Corners waited expectantly for a “war” between the Angels and members of the Bandidos Motorcycle Club who are fairly numerous in that part of the Southwest and who are also not famous for their admiration of the Angels. There was, in fact. no war between the two clubs.
But when the Angels held an impromptu parade down Main Avenue in Durango, the ten Durango cops on duty at the time felt outnumbered and out of control. And, the one thing all cops are taught to fear above all else is being out of control.
So, the Iron Horse Rally died in 2002. And, Hollister jotted down a couple of notes at the death bed.
The Last Cancellation
The first note said that biker rallies are a great way to make money because if you can afford a Harley in the first place you must be either a high-priced attorney or a brain surgeon. The second note said that, regrettably, sometimes real outlaws show up at these things and you need to prepare for them like they are Al Quaida in Iraq.
The Hollister Rally was cancelled in 2006 because no sponsor could be found who would guarantee local police a quarter of a million dollars in “estimated security costs” up front. That year was a problem for Hollister because many bikers showed up anyway.
So the next year, in 2007, the city found a promoter. And last year, 2008, that promoter, a man named Seth Doulton who does business under the name of Horse Power Promotions, lost $100,000. The police however, were paid, so they did an outstanding job. There were no impromptu parades or wars.
The Next Cancellation
Then, this Monday, November 17th, the Hollister City Council voted four to zero not to “officially sanction” a Hollister Rally for next summer unless Doulton or some other promoter would front the city $360,000 for “security,” which in another time and place, like South Philly or the North End of Boston in the 1960s, might have been called “protection.”
Protection as in, “You’se pays us and we make sure nothin’ bad happens to you’se. You’se don’t pay up and who knows what unfortunate and unforeseen event might occur. To you’se.”
The Reason Why
Nobody at the City Council meeting explained why “security” now costs 50 percent more than it did two and a half years ago. But, City Manager Clint Quilter did tell the Council, according to the Hollister Freelance, that “cutting back on law enforcement costs could potentially result in police officers being manned around the downtown perimeter until the event’s completion when they would deal with the aftermath.”
In other words, for less than $360,000 the cops would be willing to set up a checkpoint around downtown Hollister, like the perimeter around the Maximum Security Prison of Manhattan in the old science fiction movie Escape From New York. But, if anybody expected them to actually keep the peace that was going to be three hundred and sixty large up front. Take it or leave it.
Life Goes On
So the official rally is cancelled this year. It had been scheduled for July 10th through 12th, 2009.
But, do not worry. The sun will be shining that weekend in California. The roads will be dry. The bars will all be open, Chicks will still dig loud bikes and guys with scars and tattoos. And, there will be a party somewhere.
And, if Hollister doesn’t want your money somebody else will.