Summernats organisers have been forced to cancel January’s event planned for Exhibition Park due to COVID-19 restrictions but will stage a mini-Nats in March as part of the Enlighten Festival.
Managing director Andy Lopez said under the current COVID-19 event rules, a normal Summernats was not possible but the annual car festival will return in 2022 from 6 to 9 January.
“ACT Health is using Exhibition Park as a COVID-19 testing facility until the end of November and can’t confirm we’ll have our venue back, which is an unmanageable risk to our event,” he said.
”Combined with ACT Health’s recently released protocols that exclude outdoor multi-day festival events of more than 5,000 people, a pathway to a January Summernats is impossible.”
“We’ve fought really hard for our event for the last six months, but we just can’t find a way to get it over the line.”
Mr Lopez said the organising team was very disappointed and the street machine community was devastated, as well as staff, contractors, and the accommodation, hospitality and associated businesses that normally benefit from the $30 million the festival brought to the ACT economy every January.
He was loath to criticise ACT Health which he said was doing its best to keep everyone safe.
”We respect the great job that’s been done to get the ACT to such a good position,” he said
Organisers will now focus on a reduced capacity event – Summernats Rev Rock ‘n’ Roll – in March, which was achievable under the current rules.
The Summernats Rev Rock ‘n’ Roll festival will be staged at Exhibition Park on 5 to 7 March, with a maximum of 5,000 spectators and entrants, and will only use half the venue.
It will include the Burnout Masters Grand Final, cruising, show and shine, dyno, a retail expo from Australia’s best automotive brands, unveils and an elite show.
“The Summernats Rev Rock ‘n’ Roll festival will be the first major event designed to fit the current COVID-19 guidelines in Canberra, and we’ve already engaged with Venues ACT, Visit Canberra and Events ACT to get the show happening,” Mr Lopez said.
“We’re an important test case to show that private enterprise, with government support, can deliver a COVID-safe event outside of major football codes. It’s genuine innovation and a proactive partnership that will help get events back in business.”
The event will fall on the Canberra Day weekend and complement the Enlighten Festival’s lighting and projection program, Symphony in the Park, the Balloon Spectacular and Skyfire.
ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr said it was great to see Summernats working in partnership with the ACT Government to evolve the event and operate in a COVID-safe way.
“Summernats is an important event on the Canberra calendar, bringing tens of thousands of visitors each year to town who support local businesses,” he said.
“We look forward to enjoying the Summernats Rev Rock ‘n’ Roll festival in March 2021, and to welcoming back Summernats in 2022.”
Spectators and entrants tickets already purchased for Summernats 34 will be transferred to the 2022 dates, and all purchasers have been sent ticket transfer and refund information.
Summernats has organised a new event at Sydney Dragway – the Summernats Slam – on the traditional Canberra Summernats weekend, 8 to 10 January.
The Summernats Slam is the last qualifying event for the 2021 Burnout Masters Grand Final to be held in March.