Gail Nace can't help but smile, talking about Hells Angels and the business they'll bring her downtown bar when they ride into town this week for a major gathering.
Barbara Hoy is excited, too. Experience tells the arts-and-crafts dealer that bikers, who often stop in this tourist town on trips to nearby Yellowstone National Park, are free with their money and don't mind the prices.
"These people have nothing but money to spend," she said.
But Hells Angels, with their outlaw image, aren't just any bikers, and not everyone is rolling out the welcome mat.
At least one business plans to close while the bikers are in town Wednesday through Sunday, and some business owners are nervous or taking special precautions. There are concerns, too, that either Hells Angels or the beefed-up law enforcement contingent planned for the group's World Run will scare off tourists during the height of Cody's bread-and-butter travel season.
"We'll be glad when they're gone," City Administrator Laurie Kadrich said.
For months, city officials have been preparing for the rally, which she said they were tipped to by businesses reporting room reservations under such listings as "HAMC" — Hells Angels Motorcycle Club.
The rally has been the subject of countywide public meetings. It's led to primers on interacting with members of the infamous biker group on the streets or in shops — "Be smart. Use common sense." And it's become a full-time preoccupation of Police Chief Perry Rockvam; before this, the biggest event he has handled in his two years as chief was the Fourth of July parade.
Rockvam said he has researched the experiences of communities that have hosted Hells Angels — from Steamboat Springs, Colo., where a shooting involving group members occurred in 1996, to Laconia, N.H., where a rally a couple years ago was reported to be relatively uneventful. He has gotten help from state and federal agencies to strengthen a 17-person department already stretched thin this time of year by the tourist trade. Foreign police liaisons also are expected; the Hells Angels say they have chapters in at least 26 countries.
His biggest worry: crowds, and the possibility for conflict. Not only will Hells Angels be here — with as many as 1,500 people, by one law enforcement estimate — but Cody's popular nightly rodeo also will be going on, and the Park County fair will be in a nearby town. Rockvam expects the mystique surrounding Hells Angels will draw a fair number of gawkers to places the bikers are hanging out, like Nace's bar.
"The thing for us is to plan for the worst and hope for the best," he said. Rockvam declined to say how large the law enforcement presence would be, but both uniformed and plainclothes officers will be deployed.
The police response follows closely with that in other communities; the reaction to it up and down main street is similar to what's occurred elsewhere.
But Hoy, for one, believes the police may be stirring things up and that if anything hurts the "family trade," it might be them.
"I don't think there will be a big problem if the police force shuts up," she said. "They're making it too big a deal."
Others believe the planned police presence is warranted, and for some, it does little to ease their minds about having Hells Angels in town — or to erase their uncertainty about how the rally may affect their bottom lines.
While bikers ride through Cody regularly — often stopping to take in the buffet at the Irma Hotel, alongside locals and other travelers — "this is a different kind of motorcycle gang," said Lee Haines, a spokesman for the Buffalo Bill Historical Center who's also working with the law enforcement team. "This is an outlaw motorcycle gang. That's their reputation."
Christi Livingston, general manager of the Econo Lodge Moose Creek, said the motel decided to have extra staff working during the rally.
"We have no idea what to expect," she said.
George Christie, a Hells Angels member from Ventura, Calif., said he belongs to a motorcycle "club" — "We've never been proven to be a criminal group" — and a brotherhood that values respect. He declined to talk about membership, but an official with the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation said Hells Angels are believed to have 5,500 to 5,700 members worldwide.
Christie also wouldn't comment on past incidents or publicly confirm the rally dates used by city leaders. But he said he's spoken with Rockvam and considers the police chief professional and prepared.
"Despite what people might tell you, I wouldn't bring my family to a situation I thought was volatile," said Christie, who wants to show his wife and two kids an area of the country he's fond of. He likened the World Run to a family reunion of sorts.
Gene Bryan, executive director of the chamber of commerce, expects "a handful" of businesses to do well from Hells Angels over the next week. But he fears the bikers' presence could cause tourists to move through Cody quickly, or skip it altogether.
"We did not court this group, nor would we ever," Bryan said. "But since this is the United States of America, we're going to be willing to have them and serve them as best we can."
At least one business won't: Bare Necessities plans to be closed most of the week, expecting that local residents — the bath-and-body store's main clientele — will avoid downtown during the rally, employee Jackie Crowley said. There were also concerns with availability of parking — a headache most any summer day — and safety.
Nace, who runs the Silver Dollar bar — the site she says Hells Angels picked as its designated watering hole here — thinks it would be crazy for any business to close during the rally.
"I say, 'Come on in, boys. Have a good time,'" she said.
Theresa Lamson, who is with the chamber of commerce for Laconia-Weirs Beach, N.H., said Cody should look forward to what trade it can get, either from Hells Angels or the police in town to help keep the peace.
"Embrace it all; they're all spending money," she said. "Who cares where the money is from?"