LAUGHLIN — In a recent interview with Jerry Jackson, of 5 Star Entertainment and the new owner rights to the Laughlin River Run, The Laughlin Nevada Times learned how the COVID 19 pandemic killed the River Run for 2020.
After tracking down Jackson, who was in New York on a work assignment, the Times found out just how the 38th annual Laughlin River Run finally died. Jackson was willing to tell us of the string of events that led up to the official cancellation for 2020 of the annual motorcycle festival which would have seen it’s 38th outing later this month. Jackson began by saying that he is busy refunding money to exhibitors of late while doing construction work in New York City of all places — the United States’ epicenter of the
COVID-19 pandemic that drove a stake through the heart of his first outing as owner of the Laughlin River Run.
The event originally had been canceled by Dal-Con Promotions, which owned the rights to the event, after that company had not made any arrangements for this year’s outing. The rumors grew and grew. The Laughlin Chamber of Commerce took the event off its calendars, officially since they had no current contact with Dal-Con to assist with the event. The Dal-Con website was dark and had no mention of the 2020 River run on it just over a month ago, and multiple calls and emails from the Times went unanswered. Much speculation and disappointment followed for nearly a month until the surprise announcement that a new buyer had stepped up, acquiring the rights for the event and that is was in fact back on for April 23-26.
The resort hotels along Casino Drive began offering weekend deals for the annual bash that brings in thousands of bike enthusiasts who spread out from Laughlin to Kingman, down to Havasu and Oatman for the weekend of biker fun and frivolity. The old guard of California riders began readying their bikes for the event and everything was right back on track as if nothing had changed.
The Miss Laughlin event was touted, as was the tattoo convention. Bands were booked and the whole affair took on the life of its own — much as it had for 37 years running. The entire Tri-state was anticipating the big weekend in April. That is, until COVID-19 came calling.
Early in March as the pandemic began trickling into Nevada after popping up big time in California. Though Nevada hadn’t really been hit yet, the writing was on the wall that it was coming, and coming fast. The first cases began popping up in Clark County. One, then two, followed by the inevitable announcement of the first death from the virus.
Back in California, Jackson was steeped in bookings and vendors all wanting to get in on the River Run at the last moment. He said he had little time to watch the news or to see what was coming like a tsunami. His world was in major flux on his first outing with the newly acquired classic event. For him it was like tackling Moby Dick single-handedly. He was simply trying to keep up with the endless flow of those seeking to get in on the event.
Then came the announcements by many of his major backers such as Harley-Davidson and Indian Motorcycles, Vance and Hines and Hogworks all of whom announced almost in unison that they were “cancelling all events until further notice,” leaving the River Run in a precarious situation in terms of corporate participation. Many smaller vendors already had ponied up dough for their places and still were expecting the event to happen. Thirty vendors then pulled out, adding to the ones dropping like flies. On March 18, Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak made the announcement that all non-essential businesses in Nevada were ordered to shut down. Jackson said one of his local backers, Golden Entertainment, already had counseled him that he needed to pull the plug on the event. The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department followed with its similar advice. All of his major backers had come to realize that this year’s River Run simply couldn’t happen by any reasonable or acceptable means.
“I was already behind the 8-ball having just acquired the rights for it from Dal-Con in late February, and then my major backers all fell out at once, leaving me with just the diehards who still wanted me to put it on,” Jackson said.
Sisolak’s order, which closed the state’s casinos, took choice out of the matter.
Still, Jackson was inundated with the diehards who kept saying that they would come over anyway. He said he thought, “Why try it if I’m not going to break even on it? I can’t do it for a hobby. I can’t have a bunch of people get sick and blame it on me.”
At that point Jackson knew the event was over.
“It got way out of control, more than I thought it would,” he said. “I never thought it would get like this.”
But said he he held out hope even then as by the math on it the governor’s order for a 30-day shutdown would end just prior to the River Run. Maybe, he thought, there was a chance. The shutdown only went up to April 18, leaving two full days for all to arrive and to possibly make a go of it at the last minute. Then the hotels began canceling their booked reservations and, with no place to stay, that was the final nail in the coffin.
Jackson finally came to the conclusion it was definitely over for 2020 and came up with a plan saying, “I’ll eat my money and come out swinging with 13 months to get ready.”