The city council of Grants, New Mexico, voted this week — with the mayor casting the tiebreaker — to no longer support the Fire & Ice Bike Rally on Route 66 after concerns about public safety, according to the Cibola County Beacon.
During the previous city council meeting, Police Chief Craig Vandiver reported more than 150 openly armed people at the annual motorcycle rally in July. Vandiver also reported a “spike” in crime that weekend, including several fights at motels where an officer was injured. Mayor Martin Hicks also said 100 Banditos — a notorious motorcycle gang — also rolled into town that weekend.
More people at this week’s meeting also talked about trouble during the event, including city manager Laura Jaramillo:
“A fight between the Bandidos and another group was about to take place,” said Jaramillo. “In the event area. I witnessed it for myself.”
Mayor Hicks reported that a storeowner on Santa Fe Avenue witnessed a gun falling out of a biker gang members’ pocket. “What if it’d gone off?” Hicks asked. “Then what? It cost the live of an innocent human being? It’s time that the bike rally is done.”
Hicks argues that the bike rally brings a criminal element to town. “Alcohol and known biker outlaw gang members, not good. It’s about public safety and what is best for our town,” said Hicks.
However, many people testified before the city council about Fire & Ice’s economic benefits to the town, including from Cibola Communities Economic Development Foundation director Eileen Yarborough:
“There were approximately 1,300 rooms booked during this year’s event,” said the economic development director. “In addition, their dollars are turned over 2 to 4 times during their stay here. They gas up, eat at restaurants and shop at convenience stores. Last month you (the council) heard about a waitress who made enough money during this year’s event to purchase school supplies for her children. Another woman got her teeth fixed from the money she earned. Reality is it is an economic generator.”
Manuel Vasquez, president of Grants MainStreet, a nonprofit that has organized the rally, asked the council to keep Fire & Ice going to another year to allow for smoother transition to another event, which Hicks recommended a Route 66-themed festival.
The Beacon’s report made it clear it’s doubtful Fire & Ice’s organizers can set up a festival outside city limits but within Cibola County. County commission chairman Walter Jaramillo said it was not was possible for the county to support the event financially like the city of Grants did.
(Image from the Historic Route 66 Fire and Ice Rally via Facebook)