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Bikers cancel Snohomish show -- and look elsewhere for next year's event

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SNOHOMISH -- The organizers of a motorcycle show that draws thousands to downtown Snohomish have canceled this year's show over a dispute on how much to pay for fees to police the event.
It's unlikely the event will ever take place in Snohomish again, organizers said.
The motorcycle group that puts on the Old Snohomish Antique & Classic Motorcycle Show said they can't pay $30,360 for 44 police officers to staff the event. The Sky Valley chapter of the American Bikers Aimed Towards Education paid about $5,000 last year.
The event drew an estimated 22,000 last year, and police say they need more officers because they are concerned about the potential for motorcycle gang violence. There have been no major incidents in the 12 years of the show.
The group feels "disappointed and relieved," organizer Rod Hobelman said.
The group considered moving the show to Sultan, but they decided they didn't have time to regroup before the May event. He said the group didn't learn about the fees until January, after forms and brochures had already been sent to the printer.
"If we did it in Snohomish, it would have been a cookie-cutter event," Hobelman said. "We've done it for 12 years exactly the same way. We know exactly where every Porta-Potty and vendor goes."
This isn't the end of the show.
"We're already planning for next year," he said. "It will give us a year to plan a bigger and better event."
The group hasn't decided on a location for next year's show, but they're still talking with Sultan officials and have placed calls to the Tulalip Tribes.
The Sultan City Council has said it might be willing to pay for any extra security costs, Hobelman said.
In the past, the Snohomish County Sheriff's Office provided extra deputies for free to cover the motorcycle show. This year, it can't afford to provide free help.
Snohomish Police Chief John Turner had suggested the group find other ways to raise the money for security, including setting up gates and charging admission fees. In the past, other police agencies had donated time for extra security coverage, and they can't afford to do that any longer.
The motorcycle group decided it wasn't practical to charge admission and it wanted to keep the show a free family event, Hobelman said.
"I'm so upset about this," Lynn Harrison, a longtime attendee of the show, said. "I can't even believe it."
The Lynnwood woman, who rides a Harley-Davidson Road King, has attended the event for years. Members of outlaw bike gangs do attend the shows, but they don't cause trouble, she said.
"It's a big event," she said. "Bikers spend a lot of money. They go into all the shops."
Most business owners in downtown Snohomish supported the event, said Mark Nuss, owner of Fred's Rivertown Alehouse on First Street.
It's more than just the people through the door on the day of the show, Nuss said.
"The exposure helps a lot with future business," he said. "They may not buy the goods that day, but they may come back the next weekend."
If business owners downtown had known about the city's decision, they might have been able to organize to help pay for the extra costs.
"It's going to be sad to see this not happen this year," Nuss said. "We're trying to get it back next year."
Noah Haglund contributed to this story.

Letter from the biker group

ABATE of Washington Sky Valley ABATEP.O. Box 784Snohomish, WA 98291

February 17, 2009

RE: 2009 Old Snohomish Antique & Classic Motorcycle Show Cancellation Dear Fellow riders, motorcycle enthusiast and patrons of the Old Snohomish Antique & Classic Motorcycle Show:

It is with great sadness and regret that we must announce the cancellation of the Old Snohomish Antique & Classic Motorcycle Show as previously scheduled for May 17, 2009.

Our sincerest apologies to those who have worked all year in anticipation to enter their motorcycles, the individuals and volunteers who have given up time with their families, as well as the vendors, sponsors and business owners who rely on this annual community event.

As our goal has always been, sharing our pride in the community and to promote tourism in the historic town of Snohomish, our intentions are not to disrupt the anticipated revenue that retailers have enjoyed in past years. So with that being said, we encourage all who have planned to visit our town, to continue to do so with the same respect and in the same peaceful manner as done so over the past 12 years.

You may be questioning how an event that has successfully endured 12 years without incident could be cancelled? Quite simply, we have been told to pay as much as a 500% increase in security. Costs that we refuse to pass on to our supporters of the show, as this has always been a free community event. During this time of economic hardship, we cannot justify asking for your money to patronize or to access the public areas and / or businesses of Snohomish.

We cannot predict the future, but our goal for Sky Valley ABATE is to return next year with an even bigger and better show. Until then, be safe and ride free!

Sincerely,

Sky Valley ABATE

Story tags » SnohomishSultanPolice

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