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2015 Hollister Freedom Rally Recap

The 2015 Hollister Freedom Rally is in the books as a huge success. Responses have been overwhelmingly positive from bikers who came from a few miles down the road to as far away as Norway all saying it was a huge success, said Chuck Schwartz, Chairman of ConvExx the producers and promoters of the rally.

Estimated attendance for the rally was over 40,000. Bikes lined the streets of San Benito for the 3 day rally and there was a constant flow of bike traffic cruising the street. The four top Rally sponsors GEICO, Russ Brown, Indian, the official motorcycle of the Hollister Freedom Rally and Corbin were well-branded through-out the Rally zone.

A highlight of the rally for many was the Meet & Greet with Sons of Anarchy stars Tommy Flanagan "Chibs" and Mark Boone Junior "Bobby". Diehard fans were ecstatic to meet two of their favorite SOA stars and get the chance to take a picture with them and grab an autograph. It is estimated that in the 6 hour time frame they spent on stage, Tommy and Mark met over 800 fans.

As with any rally, one of the main attractions is checking out the bikes. For an even better view of all the bikes, bikers had the opportunity to go 15 feet up above the street on the GEICO Photo Tower and take selfies & photos. This gave them an amazing view of the thousands of bikes lined up in a sea of chrome and paint on San Benito Street.

The later hours of the rally were rocked by the classic sounds of the Fabulous Thunderbirds and The Guess Who, not to mention the 20 bands playing on two stages non-stop through all hours of the Rally.

Schwartz stated "I think the rally exceeded the expectations of all and we are very pleased with the excitement and the safe outcome. The City of Hollister can be proud of this year's rally. We are already working on the 2016 rally that will provide more innovation and new activities and excitement."

The 2015 Hollister Freedom Rally may be over but there are tons of memories, stories and photos that will keep the rally going until next year.

Courtesy: Candice Cooley, Convexx

Bikers laud rally changes, but attendance estimates mixed

The second day of the Hollister Freedom Rally was marked by sunny skies and visitors lauding the wide range of things to do while bikers and vendors called foot traffic slow.

"It's slower this year," said Hollister resident Marcelo Orta, 62, a member of the locally based Top Hatters Motorcycle Club, as he helped manage the group's booth a little before noon. "Maybe this evening we might get what we expected."

But Candice Cooley, the marketing manager of the event, heard attendance on Friday was up 20 percent from the previous year, she said.

"The streets were definitely full yesterday," the marketing manager said. "It was crazy."

Hollister Police Chief David Westrick wrote that the crowd Saturday seemed "significantly busier" than last year in a text message to the Free Lance.

Bikers and visitors, meanwhile, praised the new Las Vegas-based promoter ConvExx for reviving the photo tower, delivering a meet and greet with stars from the Sons of Anarchy television series and bringing in late-night headliner entertainment by The Guess Who. But items on the schedule, including a tattoo contest and mechanical bull riding, were also canceled.

The tattoo contest originally planned for Friday afternoon was postponed to Saturday and then was canceled when there weren't enough people signed up to participate, Cooley said. The mechanical bull also didn't show.

"It didn't make it," she said. "The guy couldn't get his insurance."

Throughout the day, dozens of bikers riding orange, purple and black motorcycles buzzed across Highway 25 into normally sleepy San Benito County.

"There seems to be more... more music, more stuff to do," said Hollister resident Beth Hurley, 51, as she exited the Veterans Memorial Building stage after posing for pictures with the Sons of Anarchy stars. "It's nice that it's back downtown."

"It's like one of the only things to do in Hollister," added her daughter, Megan Hurley, 17.

Another popular attraction besides the celebrity visit was the photo tower. Milpitas resident Nancy Harris, 53, made a return visit to it Saturday afternoon.

"I thought it was awesome," she said. "I wanted to take video compared to yesterday. There’s so many bikes."

On Friday, Harris used her VIP pass, which cost $100 and included concert tickets, a lunch coupon and rally memorabilia, to get a bird's-eye view of the event several times without paying $5 per visit. The passes were among several new features to the rally this year. "It was “absolutely worth it," Harris said.

"This year, I like it's a lot better," she said. "The promoters changed things and the town was a lot more welcoming."

Along San Benito Street, hundreds of bikers revved their engines and sped each way on the city's main street.

"We just got here but, yeah, it's pretty good," said Dave Boatright, a biker with a black leather jacket representing the "Soldiers for Jesus" motorcycle group.

"It's good weather, sunny. The atmosphere is good," said fellow biker Bob Fullerton from Southern California. "A lot of presence of the police but that's okay. They gotta do their job."

Santa Maria resident John Bordier, 70, and his friend Barbara Burns, 70, drove three and a half hours to reach tiny Hollister. They stood in front of the iconic rows of motorcycles parked on San Benito Street just before noon.

"Actually, we just got here about five minutes ago," said Bordier, 70. "So far, it's like it is every year: a madhouse."

Courtesy: Katie Helland, Hollister Freelance