Rumors have been circulating that the Ignacio-based motorcycle rally on Labor Day weekend may be endangered.
The owner of the Four Corners Motorcycle Rally, Johnny Valdez, has not returned calls and emails asking for comment on the future of the rally.
Business owners that organized events in relation to the rally said they normally have activities planned by now, but they haven't heard from any of the rally organizers this year, and their calls also have not been returned.
The rally apparently hasn't paid all of the bills from its 2016 event, and the Town of Ignacio is considering legal action to get $2,500 still due to the town.
In the minutes from a tribal meeting, it was noted the rally was delinquent in paying the tribe for use of the Southern Ute Fairgrounds in 2016, according to a Southern Ute tribal member who asked not to be named.
Both the rally's website and facebook pages have dates only for the 2016 event, with no reference to any activities for 2017.
Valdez bought the rally and its debt from the Ignacio Chamber of Commerce in 2015 to keep it alive. The chamber took it on in 2006 for the same reason when a private for-profit operator pulled out. All activities were in downtown Ignacio when the chamber ran it, and there was no admission charge for bikers or spectators.
Valdez moved the rally back to the Sky Ute Events Center where it started in 1993 as the Iron Horse Motorcycle Rally, but it was hard to re-instate admission charges after years of free admission.
Rumors were circulating in January, as discussed by the Ignacio Town Board on Jan. 18. At that point, Valdez owed the town $2,500 that was supposed to have been paid back in September as part of Valdez's memorandum of agreement (MOU) with the town.
"A week ago today, I sent Johnny a certified letter," Development Director Dan Naiman reported in January. "As of today he hasn't picked it up... The MOU references Johnny Valdez as the owner, Four Corners Rally LLC." The payment was due at the end of the 2016 rally, he said.
The Jan. 9 letter cited Valdez's agreement to pay the town $5,000 for services provided by the town, with $2,500 up front and the second $2,500 "to be paid at the end of the rally and submitted along with the gate ticket sales report as required in the MOU. As of today, even after numerous attempts to contact you, we have not heard or seen any of the agreed upon items; we have not had any response from you, either written or verbal, with regard to your commitments..." The rally did pay the first $2,500.
There was discussion on Jan. 18 that it would cost more than the $2,500 to take the rally to Small Claims Court, and that an MOU for this year wouldn't be approved unless the money is paid. Trustee Lawrence Bartley suggested having the certified letter hand-delivered to Valdez, who lives near Ignacio.
"We'll proceed with enforcement action," said Interim Town Manager Mark Garcia. "We'll wait for another week to see if he'll sign for the certified letter. Then I'll talk to the (police) chief about delivering."
Trustee Edward Box III commented, "I think we've done as much as we can trying to make contact. We need to follow through with it."
Garcia and Naiman were out of the office this week, but Town Clerk Georgann Valdez told the Times, "We know the letter was returned undelivered, and it was hand delivered." She didn't know if there's been any response. "The town board hasn't discussed it any more," she said.
At the Jan. 18 meeting, trustee Tom Atencio suggested opening properties in town to rally vendors. He thought people enjoyed the rally more when it was downtown. "I don't want to see it die," he said.
Mayor Stella Cox responded, "I tend to hear more complaints than positive things."
Some trustees wondered if the chamber would take the rally over again. After that meeting, several chamber members have indicated they're not willing to run it.
A new incarnation of the rally might be better for local businesses, said Kasey Correia, who owns Ignacio Floral and volunteered at the rally for years.
"We might have some more benefit," she said, with bikers still riding through and staying at Sky Ute Casino, but without organizers and volunteers having to spend hundreds of hours working the rally.