Ransford Moving Ahead With Motorcycle Rally Plans

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires Staff
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Charles Ransford, seen here at a Selectmen's meeting in May, said he is moving forward on permitting for the motorcycle rally he's been advertising.
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The organizer of a planned motorcycle rally on Hopper Road says he is going forward with his plans and has begun the permitting process laid out by the Board of Selectmen at its June 11 meeting.

Charles "Rusty" Ransford said on Tuesday that he has submitted to the Zoning Board of Appeals an application for a camping permit for the Aug. 17-19 event and is in the process of writing an application to the Selectmen for an entertainment license.

At its last meeting, the Selectmen instructed the town manager and town attorney to compose a letter to Ransford outlining the steps he needs to take to legally hold the event, which has been advertised as "Hogs on the Farm."

Ransford said he received that letter, dated June 15, on Monday, June 18, but he had heard about the outcome of the July 11 meeting, which he did not attend.

"Bad news travels fast," Ransford said in a telephone interview on Monday. "They've asked me to do that, and I guess I'm going to have to. I don't want to do anything that is sneaky or below board."

Ransford did appear before the Selectmen earlier this spring with an application to sell alcoholic beverages at the event. That application was denied. He said he was under the impression based on prior communication with the town that the alcohol license was the only hurdle he faced.

"A year ago, they told me there were no (other) obstacles I needed to overcome," he said. "As a matter of fact, I didn't know I needed a camping permit, and neither did they. ... As for an entertainment license, they never mentioned that either. They said for an event like that I wouldn't need one.

"They said the only thing I would need to apply for was an alcohol license to sell beer."

Town Manager Peter Fohlin had a different recollection of the October 2011 conversation.

"As I recall, I told him there would be several regulatory issues, but that the first and most questionable would be the liquor license, and that he might want to do some more research before he did any planning," Fohlin said.

Fohlin said he did not know whether Ransford had any subsequent conversations with individual members of the Selectmen after the October meeting.

"The next time we heard of the event was when we came upon a flier that was being distributed," Fohlin said. "I called him in to talk about the flier."

That conversation led to Ransford's appearance at the Selectmen's meeting on May 14, when his request was denied on a 4-1 vote.

Ransford said on Tuesday that the refusal of a liquor license actually made his life easier when it comes to organizing the event, but the lack of availability of beer at the site could add to traffic.

"It would probably increase traffic because they'll want to go get beer," he said. "But they did me a favor."

Another issue raised at the May 14 meeting and again by the Selectmen on June 11 was the matter of whether Hogs on the Farm is a non-profit fund-raising event. Town Attorney Joel Bard on June 11 advised the board that Ransford had registered as a charitable organization with the commonwealth, but Bard said he was not sure that the term "to benefit our U.S. Vets" on fliers advertising the event was clear enough evidence that it is a fund-raiser.

Ransford said Tuesday he had made his intentions clear, adding that the event's beneficiaries would be, "the American Legion on Spring Street and Turner House," he said, referencing the veterans home on Simonds Road.

"I've talked to Kevin Hamel," Ransford said. "He knows where [the money] is going."

But Hamel, the commander of American Legion Post 152 on Latham Street, said he has not been contacted about the motorcycle event.

"I have not [talked to Ransford]," Hamel said on Tuesday. "I'm not making any comments about it. I have not spoken with Mr. Ransford. I have not had any indication where the money is going. All I've read is that it's going to benefit 'U.S. veterans.'"

Ransford, meanwhile, argues that Hogs on the Farm would benefit the town in addition to helping veterans who would receive the proceeds.

"The problem we have here is there's only a small number of people who are against (the rally) even though it will bring a tremendous amount of business to Williamstown," Ransford said. "It will be a destination for a lot of people. It will be a real boon to the town for the number of people it will draw in."

Ransford said he has been riding a motorcycle for 50 years, and he does not fit the "hoodlum" stereotype. Neither do most of the participants at large, well-established rallies in places like Laconia, N.H., and Lake George, N.Y.

"We're not talking about Hell's Angels and Peter Fonda or Marlon Brando," he said. "We're talking about people with money. Motorcycles are a toy. They're not a necessity.

"They have money, and they spend money."

Ransford said he understands that the residents of Hopper Road are concerned about noise, that some noise is inevitable. But he believes the benefits outweigh the costs.

For now, Ransford said he is going forward with the event, and he already has received a small number of advance registrations for the rally, which has a $50 registration fee.

Ransford has said in the past that the event could draw between 500 and 5,000 people, but on Tuesday he indicated the latter figure was not likely.

"Truthfully, if we get 500 I think we'll do quite well, but that's only personal conjecture," Ransford said. "Look what happened to that music festival in Woodstock. The farmer only expected a few people, and it turned out to be the biggest thing in the world."

K&P to Ransford Re Hogs on the Farm
Tags: biker rally,   fundraiser,   motorcycles,   Ransford,   

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