The 2016 rally was, without a doubt, a success. No real count of how many motorcycles showed up over the three-day affair, but I’ve been told more than 40,000. And did they spend money? You bet! When it was over the town was happy, the vendors were happy and the promoter, an outfit called Roadshow, was happy and signed up to do it again next year.
When you have a rally of this size, you need a professional outfit to do it right, and Roadshow has been running Street Vibrations up in Reno for quite some time. Last year’s promoter skipped out with some $90,000 that should have gone elsewhere, so Hollister got in touch with Roadshow—and the result was great. They even got Harley-Davidson as a sponsor for the first time—and since 80 percent or more of the attendees were riding Milwaukee iron, it made sense. In the past Harley was worried about the potential rowdiness of the event, and did not want to be associated, but now everything is cool.
Back in 1947, the little town of Hollister, California, had some motorcycle races going on and a few fellows got drunk and rowdy. Next morning a photographer for Life magazine showed up, faked a shot of a drunk on a bike—and the Hollister myth was born.
Now it is Big Business. Lots of money, much of which goes away with the clothing and food vendors that set up shop, but a good deal stays behind. The rally really began back in 1997 to celebrate the 50th anniversary, which was quite a success. However, local politics occasionally got in the way, and the event has been on-again, off-again. Until 2013 when a new mayor understood the financial advantages of the rally. And it will be even bigger and better next year, the 70th anniversary.