SPARKS — As the community prepares for the roaring sounds of the Street Vibrations Spring Rally, the deadly events of last year’s Fall Rally loom above the rattling exhaust pipes.
Sparks Police Department and John Ascuaga’s Nugget Hotel Casino have taken careful measures to assure there is no repeat of violence. But vendors and sponsors are showing no signs of trepidation — in fact, they are roaring to get the motorcycle season underway.
Roadshows Inc., the entertainment agency organizing this weekend’s event, has booked more than 80 vendors.
“I have not heard any concerns about (safety) at all,” he said. “We are always very safety-cautious with outdoor events, and this year we have more vendors and more VIP requests than last spring.”
Burke and his crew have attended two rallies this year, in Laughlin and Daytona Beach, where they were only asked twice about last year’s Hell’s Angels and Vagos gang scuffle that resulted in the death of then Hell’s Angel’s San Jose Chapter President Jeffrey Pettigrew. Burke said that out of 350 vendors, being asked twice is a good indicator of how people feel.
“The vendors see the season going well and weather looking nice. They are getting a positive experience with each stop and that has them excited to come here,” he said.
One vendor attending the Spring Rally for the first time is Millers Chop Shop, a locally owned and operated vehicle restoration company, whose marketing director said the shop doesn’t “even think about (the shooting),” and the vendor is most looking forward to reaching out and interacting with the community.
“We want the kids and families to have a chance to come and sit in our hot rods and be able to take pictures in them,” Millers Chop Shop Marketing Director Pete Lopez said. “It’s a great way to support local businesses and gain more contact with the community.”
Owners of the only motorcycle dealer sponsoring the event, Reno Harley Davidson, are excited to hold a day-long event at their location, even though the Spring Rally is much smaller in scale compared to the Fall Rally, according to Amy Baker, the dealer’s marketing manager.
“It’s a great kick-off into summer for us,” Baker said. “A lot of people are getting their bikes out of storage and getting them ready for the summer riding season.”
Baker said Reno Harley Davidson has always experienced peaceful events at their dealer during Street Vibrations, and though they are not concerned about gang colors being present during the weekend, The Nugget has taken steps to ensure the safety of its visitors.
The Nugget’s Chief Operating Officer, Stephen Ascuaga, said their new Code of Conduct regulates the wearing of “colors” on the premises by defining them as such: “Club colors include, but are not limited to, any vest, sleeveless denim or leather jacket, sweatshirt, hat, jewelry, patches or tattoos which bear any logo, insignia, name, charter name, number(s), nickname and/or geographical location demonstrating membership in, or affiliation with, any motorcycle organization.”
“It really states where our position is,” Ascuaga said. “Many Nevada properties have a Code of Conduct and, to be honest, many of the clubs expected it after last year.”
The code has been in effect since December 2011 and Ascuaga said the Code of Conduct was necessary to keep Street Vibrations in Reno.
In addition to The Nugget instituting new policies, the Sparks Police Department also plans to amp up its security efforts with extra officers and two special teams designed to survey “hotspots.”
“We are sending out two, two-man teams with specialized equipment designed for crowd control,” said Chad Hawkins, director of special events for the department. “They will be posted at the daily events and will be mobile until 4 a.m.”
The special teams will use fewer lethal weapons and more gas-based weapons, Hawkins said.
Hawkins plans to send 11 officers out on Friday and Sunday and 20 on Saturday. Though it is a boost from last year’s Spring Rally, he said the department’s newest strategy is communication.
“We are working a lot more on intelligence and tactical teams. We have been sharing intel from the Bay Area and southern California trying to stay on top of things,” he said.
As for the feelings of the officers, Hawkins said there is not much anxiety about the rally. They have prepared nearly the same way, only this time they want to be quick to respond.
“The most important thing is — people should still feel safe because there is a good police presence,” he said.