13 January 2022

The smoke clears as Summernats roars out of Canberra, but next year's plans are already underway

| James Coleman
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Crowd cheering at car burnout

Smoke rises from the burnout pad. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

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.

crowd cheering

A crowd of onlookers cheering on the show. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

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.

READ ALSO Summernats brings out the best and the worst as police target ‘antisocial’ behaviour

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.

car display

The indoor display at Summernats. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

“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.

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Megan van der Velde7:13 am 18 Jan 22

My friends son travelled with a group of mates from Cooma to Summernats. Out of the group of 10 or so, he managed to be the only one to not catch covid. I think the timing of this years was not great considering the health issues. I live very local to Epic and am NOT interested in cars at all. However, each to his own. Considering Watson is about to explode with thousands of new residents with all of the development in the suburb, perhaps the gov could consider moving the Nats away from residents? There are about to be another 2000 plus people moving in….how about somewhere like Majura where there is room and it is away from residents? That way no one complains and the Nats people can enjoy their event without the criticism every year. It means residents also will be safer as the amount of speeding and silly behaviour is potentially going to knock one of the residents over one day given there are more of us and always seems to be kids on bikes etc. Just a thought

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