Four years ago, maybe five, the crew at Rapid Parts had a simple plan--let's have a watercooled-only VW show. In the modest parking lot of a local community college, Peter Bohrman and company set up a few tents, a small autocross and an area for enthusiasts to display their rides. A few hundred people showed up and about half as many cars--from a numbers perspective, it wasn't all that impressive.
The gears were set in motion, however, as an increasingly hungry VW community rallied around Waterfest. Despite a few hiccups (remember the sod farm?), Waterfest has grown with the fury of an Atlantic hurricane. This year, at New Jersey's Englishtown Raceway Park, thousands upon thousands braved the N.J. Turnpike, bad road food and hellacious traffic to mix with their fellow Volkswagen brethren. They came from the depths of Southern Florida and the tip of the Western Seaboard. They came in Rabbits, Dashers and Foxes. They came in Sciroccos, Corrados, New Beetles, Jettas and GTIs. And they brought their Audi friends, too.
For one day in mid-July, Englishtown Raceway could be better described as Volkswagen Nation--I have never seen so many fine VW cars in one place. Ever.
"The VW community is rife with extreme fanatics," said Waterfest's event coordinator, Garry Gleason. "These people came from all over--all over North America to be with other Volkswagen owners--that's impressive."
Although there are several other watercooled events in the U.S., none has come close to rivaling the popularity of Waterfest. "I don't know, maybe it's the name," commented Gleason.
I think it's a bit more involved than that. Besides being one of the first to organize a watercooled-only show, the Waterfest crew puts on a damn fine event. Waterfest includes a huge collection of show vehicles, an autocross, drag competition, a sizable collection of VW vendors and a swap-meet area. The Englishtown facility is host to NHRA racing and features a great dragstrip, a newly designed road course, tons of parking and good amenities. It sure beats the heck out of a dusty field!
And while the event's promoters and organizers did a stellar job, it was the folks in attendance who made it a real success. Great attitudes coupled with superb cars--what a fine mix.
For 2003, Waterfest organizers are planning on booking Englishtown again, an excellent idea given the event's exponential growth. In a few years, Waterfest may even grow into a full weekend, although most of the tuners in attendance were absolutely wasted by Saturday's end.
"I don't think we could handle another day," commented Yosh Hakutani from AWE Tuning. A pile of computers teetered dangerously as Hakutani deflected wads of money being thrown by anxious VW/Audi owners. "It's official...this is crazy."
But it's a good type of insanity, and given the success of Waterfest 2002, I think we can look forward to much more high-powered lunacy.