Tempers flare as Old Town merchants go head-to-head with each other and city over Thunder Valley Rally location

Gloves come off at City Council meeting

Eric Jurisin address City Council Tuesday and explains his position on the location of Thunder Valley Rally. (VVN/Jennifer Kucich)

Eric Jurisin address City Council Tuesday and explains his position on the location of Thunder Valley Rally. (VVN/Jennifer Kucich)

COTTONWOOD – After a Thunder Valley Rally presentation illustrating the financial statistics of the event given by Hezekiah Allen, the floor opened to the public during Tuesday night’s City Council meeting.

The controversial event sparked lively and lengthy discussion among attendees and councilmembers in the packed room.

Trevor Gottschalk, owner of Old Town Frame Company, presented a powerful letter opposing the location of the rally before the Council.

The intent of the letter was to inform the Council and the public of his position - and the position of many other Old Town merchants – on Thunder Valley Rally.

The letter stated that the event negatively impacts the group’s businesses, and said that holding the event in Old Town was not a good fit. The letter requested that there be discussion about moving the location of Thunder Valley Rally.

“The bottom line is Old Town is not just an event venue. It is a business district full of excited entrepreneurs and business owners who work hard to make Cottonwood a great place to visit as well as a great place to live and this event hinders our ability to do so. Despite the ‘renaissance’ that Old Town is experiencing, owning a business here, like anywhere, is still a risky proposition and the last thing we need from the City is something that reduces our opportunity to succeed. Please move the event to another location so we can continue to effectively run our businesses,” stated the conclusion of the letter.

It was signed by Old Town Frame Company, Bootleggers, All Things Creative, Jim and Ellen’s Rock Shop, Cartwheels Gallery, Magenta, Verde Valley Olive Oil Traders, Hart of Arizona Gallery, Old Town Flower Shoppe, Dragonfly Gallery, Hippie Emporium, Adriana’s Mexican Food, Crema Craft Kitchen, Cottonwood Hotel, Arizona Stronghold, Old Town Café, Betty’s Attic, Tavern Grille, Tavern Hotel, Old Town Pepper Company, Chef Wayne’s Creations, Barter Inn, Little Moo’s Gourmet Market, Iron Horse Inn, Pillsbury Wine Company, Red Rooster Café, Red Geranium Boutique, Bocce, Desert Diamond Distillery, Fire Mountain Wines, Nic’s, Paradise Point, Pawz on Main, The Most Interesting Store in the World, Papillon Antiques, Son Silver West, RIOT, Studio Z, Ledbetter Law Firm, Spirit Rising Yoga, Small Batch Wine and Spirits, and Fentek Industries.

Councilmember Ruben Jauregui asked for and received copies of the letter, and said there needs to be a conversation about this.

Allen said that the staff learns every year on how they can help work with different businesses.

“Sometimes it seems to me like Old Town merchants don’t want any activities. So do you want us to just cancel everything? Just not do anything to bring people to the community?” asked Mayor Diane Joens.

Her questions roused some in the room.

“That is a completely unfair statement,” said Mike Anderson of Bootlegger’s Saloon and president of the Cottonwood Old Town Association, as he walked to the podium.

“Well, I’m just expressing what I hear,” said Mayor Joens. “Meeting after meeting, the activities are not welcome by the Old Town businesses. So, why are we even doing them? Should we stop?” asked Mayor Joens.

“What activities are you referring to?” asked Anderson.

“Tilted Earth, anything that we do down here. I’m not sure that anybody likes Walkin on Main either,” said Mayor Joens.

“I don’t ever hear anything good from you all. I’m positive about the activities that we are expending time with our staff and we’re trying to work hard to bring people to the area. What do you want from us?” asked Mayor Joens.

He explained that he felt the merchants are being ignored.

“It’s not that we don’t welcome the events, it’s just we don’t welcome this particular event being right in the heart of Old Town,” said Anderson.

Mayor Joens asked, “all the people who signed this, do you want the city to just stop having events?”

The part of the room chimed “no.”

It’s not a good fit for Old Town, said Anderson. “We’re not saying cancel events.”

Joens asked what if the event was relocated but wasn’t successful.

Further discussion was sparked, and there was criticism of Gottschalk for not asking every single merchant in Old Town about the letter. Gottschalk explained “if people felt left out, it’s because I knew where they stood.”

Economic Developer Casey Rooney spoke as well, holding up a list of 105 businesses who employ approximately 500 people.

“Ask all 105 people, don’t ask 25 people. That’s my suggestion. I’ve got the list, and I’m happy to share it with whoever wants it,” said Rooney.

Mitch Levy, owner of Burning Tree Cellars, said that most of the merchants listed in the letter just want the event to be tweaked, not be done away with.

Eric Jurisin, owner of Tavern Hotel, Tavern Grille, Crema Craft Kitchen, Nic’s, and Bocce in Old Town, spoke next. He said he tried to stay on the fence.

“I don’t want to talk against the event. All we’re asking is to move it,” he said.

Allen said staff will look into it. But said if an event like this is moved; it’s a risk.

The hour-long discussion prompted council to have a special meeting at the Parks and Recreation Center to talk about the concerns addressed by the people of the letter. The date of the meeting has not yet been set.

Overall, merchants in favor of the event argued that Thunder Valley Rally bikers come back to the area - in cars - to buy goods in Old Town, which pays off in the long run.

Merchants in opposition say that reduced sales during the weekend cannot be made up, even with extended store hours to make up the difference. They would prefer that regular customers have access to their favorite Old Town stores during the weekend of the rally.


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ogroup 2 years, 3 months ago


While I have to agree with business owners that the event can stagnant business downtown on those days of the events the owner, town council need to pull together.

Some Suggestions:

Ok businesses what skin are you going to put into the game to have the event moved? Where would move the events Shuttles to and from downtown from where the event is at so you can complain. Are the businesses going to have tables at the event? You should Have family type events during the day downtown Business in town need to support the event all events Its your town support the event you win with money coming into the town. Stop negative and work with town council to make the event any event a win for the community.

The town business need to pull together because if you con't other surrounding communities will take you to the bank and take your customers that we all need spending their money here.

STOP all the negative that going on.


SodaLee 2 years, 3 months ago

The Rally brings exposure to the area. People come back to enjoy the laid back version of Cottonwood, and tell their friends. This reminds me of when I was a bartender on Whiskey Row in Prescott. Fourth of July used to be a big money maker for everyone but because of price gouging and a small group of whiners it's no longer beneficial to anyone or, for that matter, fun.


cconover 2 years, 3 months ago

I am shocked that the TVR is anything short of a windfall for the merchants on Main Street. But, the businesses know their bottom line, and I have to support them. They are the ones that risked so much to make Main Street what it is today. Old Town is beautiful and successful because of their hard work. If TVR is hurting their business enough that it's a concern to them, we need to move it to Riverfront park.


wolfnaz12 2 years, 3 months ago

Call me silly, but why can't we have something that is better for everyone, like a Fall Festival, Spring Festival, Art and Crafts shows? I think that would bring a more rounded group of people to Old Town. People coming to shows are coming to shop and buy. Thunder Valley Rally doesn't really seem to be the kind of event that puts people in the mood to shop-eat and drink, yeah, but so many of the shops down in Old Town don't offer food and drink.
We attended TVR this year; I wasn't impressed. After about an hour, we left. The music was really loud, the street was dark, people were drunk, I came home smelling like a smoky old bar and I was outside. If I was a merchant, I wouldn't want it either. Take it somewhere else.


10hrtim 2 years, 3 months ago

Seems to me that it really doesn't matter what the small business owner has to say. Until we get new leadership nothing is going to change! Lets get back to working for the people and listening to the people and community rather than doing what you think is best for us! I strongly support our local businesses and we need to listen to them before they decide to go somewhere else!! Not knocking TVR but I do believe it can be moved to another location close to Old Town so everyone in the community benefits!!