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Cancel bike rallies? ‘Much Ado about Nothing’ & ‘All’s Well that Ends Well’

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

Courier archives
Precinct 3 Commissioner Andy Wilkerson

(Editor’s note: Before leaving the office to cover Bandera County Commissioners Court on Thursday, April 28, publisher Gail Joiner told me she had just received a call from an irate business owner, who had stated, “I hear the judge wants to get rid of all the motorcycles in Bandera.” On the face of it, that statement defied belief. The moral? Don’t listen to rumors and don’t believe everything posted on social media.)

The courtroom was packed during last Thursday’s meeting of commissioners court due to agenda item nine – “Review of Biker Rally events at Mansfield park: a.) Consider leasing for future events and b.) Consider contract restrictions and-or additional liability insurance coverage.”
From the onset, Judge Richard Evans noted that the item had been included at the request of Precinct 3 Commissioner Andy Wilkerson.
In a nutshell, after protracted discussions and cogent pleas from stakeholders of the twice-yearly motorcycle rallies, the court tabled the issue until more information could be obtained.
However, in an interview later than afternoon, Wilkerson said he had met with County Attorney Janna Lindig and event promoters, Dwayne and Paula Lopez. The upshot of the conversation was that those associated with the rallies possessed sufficient liability insurance – approximately $3 million worth – to “protect Bandera County in the event something happens during the biker rallies.”
The whole episode turned out to be simply, in the words of The Bard, “much ado about nothing.”
Those with short attention spans or busy schedules can stop reading now, but for everyone else, in the words of The Bard’s Henry V, “Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more.”
Insufficient insurance?
Launching into his agenda item, Wilkerson noted that during the last bike rally – “Thunder in the Hills” in March – deputies had thwarted a potential problem before it reached epic proportions. “But what would have happened if it hadn’t been stopped?” Wilkerson asked. It could have cost Bandera County a considerable amount of money.”
The incident involved two people at the rally who sported T-shirts of rival motorcycle gangs – the Banditos and Cossacks. Neither was a member of either club, and Johnny-on-the-spot deputies had immediately defused the situation, according to reports.
Wilkerson seemed to imply that insurance liability coverage provided by the promoters was insufficient to protect the county from encountering “a huge direct loss in the event of an incident.” Wilkerson said, “I’m going to ask TAC (the Texas Association of Counties) and the county attorney to come up with a number.”
Continuing, he added, “I’m not trying to stop the biker rallies, but I want to protect the county. (Rallies are) an economic boon to the county, but we also have a lot of exposure.”
County Judge Richard Evans suggested that Wilkerson discuss his concerns with rally promoters. In response, Paula Lopez asked that the meeting be done quickly because she and her husband must begin advertising for September’s “Rumble on the River” rally. “Also, if we have to find another venue for March 2017, we’ll have to starting looking now,” she said.
To Wilkerson’s suggestion that the item resurface on the May 26 agenda, Paula Lopez replied, “That will be too late.”
‘Pesky’ public
chimes in
At this point, it became unclear as to whether the Lopez’s have a signed contract with the county for the next rally. “If they have a signed contract, you can’t change anything,” Lindig advised.
During the public comment section, speakers brought up valid points, including:
• If the rallies are cancelled, how will those revenues be replaced?
• “Bikers keep Bandera viable, have a low impact on the community and keep us alive all year.”
• Bikers help fund community events and local nonprofits.
• No arrests occurred during the last motorcycle rally at Mansfield Park.
• Should insurance rates be raised for the biker rallies, would this be true “across the board” for other events at Mansfield Park?
• It was also pointed out increasing the rent on the park grounds might preclude rally promoters from renting the show barn. If that occurred, the $2,700 show barn rent would not go back into the coffers for the Junior Livestock Show and Sale.
• Discovery Channel has rated the ride though the Hill Country as the “Number One Ride” in North America. “Don’t make this area biker unfriendly.”
“I just want to clear this up,” Wilkerson reiterated. “I’m not trying to get rid of the rallies. I just want to make sure something’s in place to protect the county if something happens.”
McGroarty at podium
Addressing a rumor that the promoters must take out liability insurance in the amount of $10 million, James McGroarty, owner of 11th Street Cowboy Bar, noted that the Lone Star Rally in Galveston attracted 634,000 people and the promoters had just $2 million liability insurance.
Additionally, a motorcycle rally in Austin boasted 513,000 attendees and the promoters had $2 million insurance. “Each alcohol vendor – and there are two – at Mansfield Park must also provide $1 million insurance. That’s $3 million in total,” McGroarty said. He added, “You can’t buy $10 million worth of insurance. I tried yesterday. Neither AIG nor Zurich will write a policy for $10 million.”
McGroarty also pointed out that, as a governmental agency, the county has “limited liability” with regard to civil lawsuits. “Be realistic on the liability issue,” he advised.
Concurring with McGroarty, Paula Lopez said each vendor has his own insurance policy. “It’s required in the contracts,” she said.
After Commissioner Bobby Harris recommended that discussions be expedited, Wilkerson met with the promoters and Lindig that afternoon. When the meeting ended, the insurance question appeared to have been answered. And, despite Wilkerson’s concerns, the biker rallies required no additional liability insurance than what was already on the books.
After recalling the packed courtroom – as well as agitated business community – a court-watching wag remarked, “It appears to me ole Andy should have done his homework before putting this thing on the agenda. I believe this could have been averted if he had bothered to talk to the Lopez’s in the first place. It’s just like the show barn thing.”