Friday, May 1
BENNINGTON — Police say they are not as concerned this year with a party approved by the Development Review Board despite the likely presence of a notorious motorcycle club.

Milo Campbell received preliminary permission last week from the DRB to host a second "Mudder's Day" event on his property near Overlea Road. The party has been billed as family-friendly by Campbell, who held a similar event last year that featured various activities involving a mud pit.

Several dozen supporters appeared with him at the DRB meeting. A small handful of those attending, including Campbell, sported Hells Angels attire, however, causing local officials to take notice.

The Hells Angels Motorcycle Club, founded in 1948, is a worldwide club with members typically riding Harley-Davidson motorcycles. Members say they are a law-abiding group, but federal, state and local law enforcement agencies contend the club routinely engages in violence, drug dealing, trafficking stolen goods and extortion.

According to Campbell, no alcohol will be served at the event to be held on May 10, and there will be fire and safety officials present. He told the DRB he has also planned for trash pickup and proper sanitation.

Some neighbors attended the meeting, including Viola Gulley, a long-time resident of the area, who complained about the event. Gulley said previous events have been loud and drawn large crowds.


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May 5 meeting

Town Planning Director and Zoning Administrator Dan Monks said the approval status could change before the board's next meeting on May 5, but is unlikely to change from approval to denial. Monks said the board was concerned with the hours of operation, and wanted to make sure the 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. time-frame is followed.

Campbell has had trouble with the town in the past over parties held on his property. Monks said one that was permitted for up to 60 people had as many as 500. Campbell also organized a similar party without seeking a town permit, causing the town to seek an emergency injunction from the Vermont Environmental Court to prevent the event from taking place.

Campbell told the DRB the event could attract as many as 800 people this year. There will be a $5 charge for adults to attend, he said.

Detective Sgt. David Rowland said Hells Angels often host fundraisers similar to the type of event Campbell has planned. He said police will be conducting "normal, standard intelligence gathering." Police monitored last year's event by helicopter, according to one law enforcement officer.

"Last year we just didn't know what to expect," Rowland said.

Police are trying to determine if the club is attempting to set up a chapter locally.

"That would be the million dollar question," Rowland said. "When somebody shows up with a Vermont patch we'll know."

Hells Angels members have been passing through Bennington for years, according to police, but members have been holding more events locally.

'Totally unexpected'

A group of about 50 bikers stopped at a Battenkill Grange event in Arlington last summer, according to Grange member Nathalie Caler. She said it "added spice" to the day.

"They were gentleman and ladies. It was totally unexpected. My understanding was that they were on a covered bridge tour," she said. "We laughed a lot about it, we really did."

Caler said the Hells Angels were tailed by a state police cruiser.

Contact Neal P. Goswami at ngoswami@benningtonbanner.com