The foot is flat to the floor as Summernats revs up to return to Canberra in January next year.
The annual festival of cars, petrol and going around in circles in a cloud of your own tyre smoke was curtailed for 2021 due to COVID-19 restrictions. Come rain or shine, however, ‘Summernats 34’ will mark the first major event since the pandemic began.
This week, ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr announced a pathway out of lockdown. By December, full vaccination rates will be up above 90 per cent, and borders between NSW, VIC and ACT will be open.
Summernats co-owner Andy Lopez says they now have their “document of hope” and are “all in.”
“We’ve been working with all parts of government with the number one aim of delivering a safe, fun and sustainable event when the conditions are right,” he says. “The right conditions are coming, and the work will be ramping up so we’re ready to go in January.”
Summernats have previously delivered festivals in NSW, QLD, the NT and WA during the pandemic. They also presented ACT Health with a 200-page COVID-safe event plan prior to the current outbreak which will be fine-tuned to align with conditions in January 2022.
Lingering restrictions may affect some components of the event’s program, but Andy says they’re confident they can pull off a safe Summernats in Canberra and also a “really fun one.”
“If it means we have to wear masks everywhere, that’s a price worth paying.”
The last Summernats was held in January 2020, during the Black Summer bushfires.
“We said to each other afterwards, ‘What else can the world throw at us?’ Should have knocked on wood, as it turns out.”
Andy sees Summernats bringing two major benefits to a post-lockdown Canberra.
“The first is the benefit to the community,” he says. “It’s life, it’s joy, it’s happiness.
“It’s the sense of normality, where Summernats rolls into town in January – half of the town is streaming down to the coast and the rest of us are hanging around and having a great time.
“The other is economic, and that is the $30 million that we will bring to the ACT economy that goes straight into hotels, restaurants, cafes, pubs, and other small businesses.”
A recently commissioned economic impact study reveals that Summernats has brought $750 million into the ACT economy over the past 30 years, and more importantly, will continue to inject a further $250 million over the next seven years.
National Capital Attractions Association General Manager Debra Beetham says “Summernats has a well-documented history of bringing tourists to the region and the event would be a great step forward for the tourism and event industry”.
Canberra Region Tourism Leaders Forum Chair Dr David Marshall says events like Summernats, which attract well over 100,000 visitors, are crucial for driving recovery.
Braddon United Retailers and Traders (BURT) spokesperson Kel Watt says they for one “can’t wait to welcome back the diversity, colour and excitement that an event like Summernats brings to our precinct”.
The Street Machine Summernats 34, supported by Rare Spares, will be held from Thursday, 6 January to Sunday, 9 January, 2022 at Exhibition Park in Canberra (EPIC).