Those who criticize the city of Cottonwood for encouraging thousands of bikers to visit each year may need to eat their words: Despite attracting a significantly higher number of participants this year, Thunder Valley Rally did not result in significant disturbances to the peace.
“It looks like we had about the same amount of calls for service as last year, but fewer calls for service for TVR specifically,” Cottonwood Police Department Sgt. Monica Kuhlt said. “[We had] nine calls total relating to TVR, with one arrest of a Cottonwood citizen for assault at the event itself.”
According to Kuhlt, 58-year-old Cottonwood resident Lorna Howard was arrested Friday, Sept. 15, after she allegedly “tried to fight another female at TVR.” Alcohol, Kuhlt added, was likely a contributing factor. Howard was cited and released for assault and/or disorderly conduct.
“TVR had around double the attendance from last year, from what I understand, and correspondingly higher alcohol sales,” CPD Chief Steve Gesell said. “That being said, it’s pleasantly surprising that the public safety impacts were so minimal; always a pleasure to see such a large number of adults enjoying themselves in a responsible manner.”
In 2016, TVR attracted approximately 8,500 participants. “Our very rudimentary estimates are 3,000 to 4,000 at Friday’s concert and 5,000 to 6,500 at Saturday’s concert,” Cottonwood Recreation Services Supervisor Hezekiah Allen said. “This does not include those attending Old Town’s festivities as motorcycle passengers, and those walking in are not charged unless attending the main concerts at night.”
Cottonwood City Manager Doug Bartosh, who was chief of the Cottonwood Police Department prior to taking his current role, said, “I think it was the best TVR we’ve had to date …. It really went smooth [with] probably a record crowd.”
Bartosh said that he was initially wary of splitting venues between Old Town Cottonwood and Riverfront Park for the event, but that the arrangement seemed to work out well. He praised the shuttle system put in place, which allowed participants, particularly those consuming alcohol, to travel to and from venues safely.
One major motorcycle accident occurred in Cottonwood, just after 7 p.m. on Sept. 15. Charles France Jr., 65, of Hesperia, Mich., was involved in a collision in which a Toyota Tacoma truck reportedly made left turn in front of him, CPD Sgt. Kevin Murie stated.
“France’s motorcycle broadsided the truck and sent France flying into and over a third vehicle. France suffered numerous facial injuries, both wrist had compound fractures as well as both ankles.” According to Murie, France is still in critical condition at Flagstaff Medical Center.
Public safety is the primary concern of TVR, of course, but Bartosh noted that the increased participation would inevitably mean more money coming in via attendance sales and sales tax, leading to a more sustainable future for the event.
“It’ll be pretty interesting to see how we did financially, but it’s got to be close to breaking even,” Bartosh said.