Bikers did what the community wouldn’t
Hollister, Calif., July 6–8—Historically, there have been a lot of changes for the community of Hollister, but especially so since the Hollister Freedom Rally of 2017 and after much back-and-forth this past year, the city leaders voted 3-to-2 against a rally for 2018. According to various local sources, the city of Hollister went to great lengths to broadcast the cancellation of the annual event, much to the chagrin of the local businesses who cater to the motorcycle community each July.
Despite the official cancellation of this historic event, a wave of support and cumulative effort by local businesses, clubs and individuals to continue the 70-year tradition of bikers descending on the sleepy little town took hold. Bikers from all over the country came to pay homage and celebrate the long and rich history of the birthplace of the American biker and to express their own personal freedom and passion for the ride during the annual 4th of July celebration. Like a phoenix rising out of the ashes came the 2018 Hollister Rebel Rally, an event named to symbolize the actual rebellion of many to the thoughts and ideas of a few.
This year marks a milestone for the “Idea Guy,” Mike Corbin, and his loyal crew as they celebrated 50 remarkable years in the business of motorcycle seat and accessory building, quite an accomplishment for any business, especially in California. There is no question that half a century of success is because the man at the top has a knack for staying relevant with the industry and is extremely loyal to his customers and employees. His beautiful wife Bev started working for the business 47 years ago. With a total of 100 employees, three of which have 35 years with Corbin and 28 percent that have over 20 years with the organization, this is clearly a stable, reliable institution in our biker community, and Mike Corbin is at the top of the class.
To mark this incredible 50th anniversary, Mike ramped up the Corbin Customer Appreciation Week with more vendors, great food at the Wizard’s Café as well as a few other fantastic food vendors. There was live music as well as a bike show and the Top Hatters MC annual poker run. Bev Corbin and the ladies of Pinnacle Quilters of San Benito County raffled off an outstanding biker-themed quilt and sold other quilted items and delectable baked goods, raising a few thousand dollars for the children at Chamberlain’s Children’s Home. Several local clubs were on hand with their support merchandise and several biker law firms handed out swag. There was Dynojet, WindVest Windshields, Espinoza Leather from Los Angeles, and other biker-related vendors. The live music included good friends of Corbin, The Shanks from the Bay Area. There were people visiting Corbin from all over the country, the East Coast to Hawaii and even France, many who recognize Corbin’s longstanding contribution to the biker world.
According to Mike Corbin this was the best rally in the history of Corbin. He had the highest attendance and the most sales, facts that always make a business owner satisfied with the effort that goes into an event.
Local motorcycle club Top Hatters MC, part of the long-standing history of the biker community in Hollister, started their annual poker run from Corbin’s, taking the bikers on a nice run through the community.
Another huge favorite in the Hollister community, Rey and Angela from Hollister Powersports, not only opened their doors and parking lots to motorcyclists with Indian Motorcycle demo rides and vendors, but also set up the Veterans Memorial Hall in downtown Hollister with a throwback tradition to the Original Wild One Saloon with an air-conditioned hall with live entertainment, great food and adult beverages served up by pretty bartenders—a winning combination to be sure. The lineup of bands was fantastic and gave any weary biker a place to rehydrate and relax. Under the beautiful shade trees that adorn the Veterans Memorial were vendors including Indian Motorcycle and 805 Beer. Speaking with Rey after the event, he stated, “The Hollister Rebel Rally was the best year for sales during the event; 23 units over their best in previous years.” Their parking lots were full every day, including Sunday. Rey was very excited about the energy generated by this year’s Rebel Rally and was already making plans for next year to expand the event to an even greater level.
To top off another fantastic year was a new face to the local business community of Hollister and not just the everyday local business, but also the business that represents the epitome of the American biker, Johnny’s Bar & Grill. Founded in 1947, Peter Lago had been coming to Hollister since 2003 from his home in Hawaii, helping with the famous bar during rally. When the time came to purchase this iconic biker bar, Peter jumped at the opportunity that most bikers could only dream of. With the usual back-and-forth that takes place in this type of transaction, Peter was already invested in his heart, mind and pocketbook. There were a few times when he thought the deal wasn’t going to happen. They tried to finalize on January 1, 2018, however it would be a few more months before Peter officially took over ownership. Facing a lot of headaches that come to the new owner of an older, historic building including permits, cancellation of the official city rally, etc., Peter overcame most challenges and was more than ready to have Johnny’s rally-ready, including being part of the grassroots effort to make the Hollister Rebel Rally a huge success. He was already implementing new ideas and relevance in the bar, including a ginormous biker breakfast every Sunday. With the help of Corbin’s graphic guy, Greg Hurley, Lago recreated the history and memories of the American biker culture on a wall in the bar. The wall lays out an interesting piece of art that tells a very important story. He is also in the process of having the bar stools reupholstered by Corbin. While Peter is updating and in some ways transforming the bar, he is maintaining the integrity of the history that goes with it. Peter was very proud to be part of the Hollister Rebel Rally, but wanted to stress that “Johnny’s is not about me; I’m merely the custodian of the American biker history.”
It is very interesting to note that the city itself did not promote, condone or participate in the success of the Hollister Rebel Rally, nor secure an extraordinary number of outside law enforcement as in years past. The unofficial word is that bikers are very capable of maintaining themselves in a civilized manner, as there were essentially no rally-related calls for police assistance or intervention. A large number of officers were even called off overtime shifts on Saturday due to lack of necessity.
With great appreciation and respect, thank you to Mike Corbin, Rey Sotelo and Peter Lago, Hells Angels MC, Boozefighters MC, Top Hatters MC as well as all the supporting vendors, customers and the community of bikers for making this rally a very big success. Ride on, rally on!