Gang colors banned at Street Vibrations
September 26, 2013
RENO — Without his leather jacket, it's hard to tell that Troy Regas is the president of the local Hells Angels chapter. He rides his Harley-Davidson with his 3-year-old son, and he knows his way around a floral arrangement.
"I'm the meanest Hells Angel in the world, and I sell flowers," said Regas, a salesman for the Green Leaf Wholesale Florist in Sparks.
"I'm a florist. I do weddings," he told the Reno Gazette-Journal.
Regas typically wears his motorcycle gang's patch on his ride to work, but he will have to keep it covered this week at most of the 19th annual Street Vibrations festival, which served as the stage for a deadly casino shootout between the Hells Angels and rival Vagos gang two years ago.
Festival organizers have banned their colors (Angels red and Vagos green) along with those of four others — Mongols, Banditos, Las Vegas Gents and Green Machine Green Nation.
Several casinos have taken it a step further, issuing outright bans on the gang members themselves in response to the melee that turned the busy casino floor of John Ascuaga's Nugget into a shooting gallery the night of Sept. 23, 2011.
Spokeswoman Lauren Garber acknowledged the policy that the Nugget put in place for the first time last year could affect turnout for the festival that typically attracts 30,000 visitors and pumps an estimated $56 million into the local economy.
"Some of the people say, 'We are not coming to the event if we can't wear colors,'" she said, but "if you don't want to comply then you are not welcome at the event."
Street Vibrations manager Randy Burke said they respect an individual's First Amendment rights and won't attempt to enforce a dress code on public property. He said he hopes the private property dress code is accepted to ensure a feeling of safety for visitors at a variety of events running through Sunday.
"We are asking people to respect and observe a dress code. We are not telling people to not come and that they are not welcome. Everybody is welcome," he said.
Saturday events in Carson City include a show and shine, the Carson City Sheriff's Office hosting bike games, kids' games and a street dance downtown. Carson City Harley-Davidson is also hosting events today through Sunday at its 2900 Research Way location. The bike fest includes live music, food, vendors, Jason Pullen stunts and Liv-Fast Motorcross Stunts.
Ernesto Gonzalez, ex-president of the Vagos' chapter in Nicaragua, was convicted this year of first-degree murder in the shooting of Jeffrey "Jethro" Pettigrew, president of the Hells Angels in San Jose. He's scheduled to be sentenced Oct. 3 in Washoe District Court.
Regas understands the casino policies but thinks the blanket ban on colors at Street Vibrations events is a heavy-handed response.
"I don't understand Randy Burke saying this is a no-colors event. I understand if a casino says that, but this is not a casino event," he said.
But he doesn't expect the changes to hurt the festival in the long run.
"This event will grow," Regas said. "It will come back to be normal again. It's just going to take time."