The smoke has cleared at Exhibition Park in Canberra (EPIC), marking the end of another Summernats.
Summernats 34 had thousands of cars and even more people descending on Canberra for four days between Thursday, 6 January and Sunday, 9 January for the annual festival of horsepower, tyre smoke and mullets.
It didn’t go by without complaints about noise, smoke and antisocial behaviour, but the organisers, police and ACT Health are all pleased with how the event turned out.
Summernats boss Andy Lopez says it was great to be back in action.
“It was fantastic. Everyone was so excited, and there were lots of smiling faces.”
Summernats has been a mainstay of Canberra for 34 years now, injecting an estimated $30 million into the local economy over the holiday break. It took place in 2020 despite the heavy smoke from the bushfires but went on hiatus in 2021 due to COVID-19 restrictions.
The exact figures have yet to be released, but it’s estimated the 2022 event had about 20,000 people pouring through the gates every day, for a total of 80,000 over the four days. The attendee numbers were capped in light of the rapid spread of Omicron in the ACT, so this is down from the usual 100,000.
Andy describes the behaviour as “wild at times”, but organisers received a letter from the ACT Chief Health Officer commending them on how they worked with government restrictions to pull off such a massive event.
Police were called to a scene in Fyshwick on the first night, where 1000 cars and 2000 people were doing burnouts and setting off fireworks. The group was quickly dispatched and the remaining days went by fuss-free.
The new ‘Fringe Festival’ brought a range of invited cars through the streets of Braddon on the evenings of Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Andy says this packed the restaurants, bars and cafes to the gills, “exactly what it was designed to do”.
Over the years, an effort has been made to cleanse the event of its rough reputation. Andy says this has worked in its favour, but he steers away from using the term ‘family-friendly’.
“It needs to be friendly,” he says. “It’s not a show for five-year-olds, but it is a good show for everyone. We want everyone, including families, to have a lot of fun.”
He says patrons have gone along with them on this goal and that sexist behaviour is “all but gone now”.
It may have been welcomed back by motorsport enthusiasts in the ACT and beyond for 2022, but as always, not all arms were open.
Andy’s response to complaints is matter-of-fact.
“We don’t need everyone to love it. I’m not a massive fan of opera, but that doesn’t mean nobody else should listen to opera. Live and let live. The world is shitty enough without cancelling something because someone doesn’t like it.”
He says they came out in clear condemnation of those who took the hooning out the gates and into suburbia.
All going well, Summernats will return to Canberra for its 35th iteration from 5 to 8 January 2023, “bigger and better” than ever. Entry registrations are already being accepted on the Summernats website.