Lots of noise, lots of music and lots of money spent…which is the way any good motorcycle rally should be. Tens of thousands of motorcyclists, the majority riding Harleys, converged on the California town of Hollister for the 2015 Independence Day weekend, and it all went quite well. Since this was the first major motorcycle event with a “biker” image following the Waco, Texas, incident last May, when several motorcycle gangs had a shootout, the authorities were a mite nervous.
No need. It was a peaceable happening, with four blocks of downtown San Benito Street closed off to cars so that Sturgis-style parking could go into effect, with bikes lined up against the curb and a double-row in the middle of the street. Quite impressive, and those blocks were full by 10 a.m. on Saturday, the biggest day of the rally. Either these riders were early risers or had stayed up all night. A tower had been set up to give photographers a great shot—five bucks for the privilege.
The big fear, of course, were the self-proclaimed biker gangs, but the only Hells Angel I saw was Sonny Barger, who was autographing his many books out at the Corbin factory. Any number of genial clubs were on hand, including local standbys like the Tophatters and the Boozefighters. There were also a surprising number of Christian clubs, with a dozen or more that I had never heard of before.
The organizers, a Las Vegas outfit called ConvExx, reported that 40,000-45,000 bikers showed up. Which is probably somewhat of an exaggeration, as it is physically impossible to accurately count the number of motorcyclists that did come to town for that three-day event. For $100 one could get a VIP ticket, giving access to all events, from bands like the Thunderbirds and Guess Who, to being first in line to meet several Sons of Anarchy. But most riders came for the show, to listen to the music on two sound stages, shop at the 100-plus vendors, and ride up and down San Benito…very, very slowly. It could take upwards of half an hour to go the four blocks. And I must say that new must-have on all these baggers is a sound-system that can hit 120 decibels. Radios were louder than aftermarket exhaust pipes.
The rally must have been a success—the dates for 2016 are already set, July 1-3.