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Biker rodeo may be too XXX for Hernando commission

Jimmy Batten has run three Biker Rodeos in the past on his property in eastern Hernando but has permit problems now.

RON THOMPSON | Times

Jimmy Batten has run three Biker Rodeos in the past on his property in eastern Hernando but has permit problems now.

BROOKSVILLE — Here's something you don't usually see printed with a County Commission agenda: a half-naked biker-babe conga line.

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Keep reading the packet, and you'll see a suggestion from county staffers to visit a Web site that features XXX-rated photos and a 27-second video of a "screaming orgasm contest."

The issue: the "Brooksville Old School Biker Rodeo — Party in the Pasture 4." A magazine Web site describes it as "Beer, T--s & Biker Shenanigans."

If you think it sounds like the title of a pornographic movie, you're not alone. As Hernando County commissioners received the agenda Friday, they gasped and squirmed.

"Whoa!" said Commissioner Diane Rowden. "Um, I'm breathless. This is a first."

Commissioner Dave Russell said the gratuitous female nudity was too explicit to view on his county computer. "I'll have to wait until I get home to eyeball that one," he said.

Before you jump to conclusions, know that the photos and link were not a mistake. It's official county business.

On Tuesday, the commission will consider whether to grant a conditional use permit for the Oct. 30 to Nov. 1 event, which is expected to draw at least 1,500 bikers from across the state.

Host Jimmy Batten, a well-known Brooksville rancher and biker enthusiast, said the event is a charity fundraiser for disabled veterans.

Really.

"Hundreds of thousands of people fight in wars and died for the right to assembly and the right to do things like this," he said. "We promote a wet T-shirt contest, but not nudity."

The past three events raised about $25,000, with proceeds donated to a local VFW post and the Marine Corps League Detachment in Spring Hill.

Batten holds the biker rodeos on his 40-acre ranch in the rural eastern part of the county. They occur twice a year — once in the fall and once in the spring — and feature "biker games," live music and, of course, lots of beer. The games include standards like slowest rider and bike weave. The photos also show a contest where women riding on the back of a moving motorcycle try to bite a hotdog dangling from a string above.

The county gave Batten a permit for the 2007 fall event. But after discovering what the biker rodeo entailed, officials denied him a permit for the May event on the grounds that it is "contrary to the public interest."

Batten — who gained some fame in 2004 when he hosted celebrities Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie for an episode of their reality show, Simple Life 2 — held the spring event anyway. But he was soon threatened with $15,000 fines if he went forward with the fall rodeo.

In 2002, the county banned public nudity, and the county attorney's office believes Batten's event violates the ordinance because the public is invited and would pay a $10 entry fee.

But Batten is fighting back. He appealed to get an evidentiary hearing Tuesday before the five-member County Commission.

Which brings us back to the explicit photographs from previous pasture parties.

They appear on the Web site for Scootergoods, a regional motorcycle magazine. Owner Don Varrieur said the photos were submitted by those who attended, and he didn't seen why the nudity was a big deal.

"We are all adults, and we do adult things," he said. "Just let us be free to raise money and do the right thing. … Our hearts are in the right place."

Assistant County Attorney Kent Weissinger said he didn't intend to include some of photos in the agenda packet. But the material, particularly the graphic link, is evidence, he said.

County commissioners vowed to give Batten a fair hearing.

Commissioner Jeff Stabins put it this way: "I am going to go to the Web site and learn as much as I can about it."

John Frank can be reached at jfrank@sptimes.com or (352) 754-6114.

Biker rodeo may be too XXX for Hernando commission 09/19/08 [Last modified: Thursday, September 25, 2008 3:18pm]
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