Will anyone be missing Summernats in Canberra this weekend?

Zoya Patel 6 January 2021 89

No matter how hard you look, you won’t find Zoya Patel among the crowd that attended Summernats 33 last year. Photo: Peter Norton.

It’s rare to begin a year without the usual community debate around Summernats – whether you love it or hate it, the annual car show is a point of conversation in Canberra, which has been its home since 1987.

This year, due to the ACT’s COVID-19 restrictions for large public events, Summernats will be taking place in Sydney this weekend.

There won’t be the usual influx of Aussies from other parts of the country to the ACT, eager to participate in one of the car-loving community’s key annual events. The sound of burnouts won’t be ringing through North Canberra. Women can walk the streets without expecting to be cat-called by visitors to our town in their souped-up cars.

From my descriptions, it’s probably clear that I’m not a regular attendee of Summernats, and have no interest in becoming one. But despite my preference for other forms of entertainment, I’ve always struggled to define my position on the festival.

Most people I know are from the part of the Canberra community who hate Summernats, and think it’s low-brow and not in line with the overall culture of the ACT. They dislike the sexist aspects of the festival, which has long been criticised for reports of sexual harassment experienced by women attendees and the wet t-shirt contest that used to take place. The smoke and noise of burnouts irritate these Canberrans, and they’re probably relieved that the festival has moved up to Sydney for this year.

READ MORE: Time for Summernats to change gears again, or go

But personally, I always try to push back against the divide of low-brow v high-brow culture, and this idea of Summernats as a bogan festival for the unenlightened. Clearly, there are many Canberrans and Australians that enjoy the event, who are passionate about cars, and who look forward to Summernats as a chance to engage with their community. Why shouldn’t they be able to enjoy themselves, provided the festival organisers are actively trying to address the genuine issues with the event’s culture?

Just because some of us might prefer to visit the National Gallery of Australia than watch a burnout competition doesn’t mean there’s no value to the latter.

It’s also important to remember that Summernats is a big annual contributor to the ACT economy. The impacts of not having the festival this year will be felt across our hospitality and tourism sectors. We benefit as a Territory from big events like this, regardless of whether we would choose to actually attend them.

READ MORE: If we’re really a community, tolerate Summernats

With these common arguments for and against Summernats told, I’m curious whether the majority of Canberrans have registered that the festival won’t be in our city this year, and if any worry that the move to Sydney may become permanent (though organisers have assured the public that it’ll return to EPIC in 2022, COVID-permitting)?

Despite the controversy associated with it, is Summernats a key part of Canberra’s identity? It’s definitely a much-debated topic of conversation and one that every Canberran I know has an opinion on. Whether you love it or love to hate it, will you be missing Summernats this weekend?

Or is its absence this year an opportunity to prove that Canberra isn’t the right home for the event and that maybe it’s time for a new chapter in its history?


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89 Responses to Will anyone be missing Summernats in Canberra this weekend?
purplevh purplevh 8:05 pm 14 Jan 21

I used to attend pretty much every Summernats.
I haven’t for a few years because I’m over the dickhead element combined with the fact that its too bloody hot.

Unfortunately the weather would have been perfect for it this year 🙁

Whether or not I go I do recognise that it brings much joy to a lot of people. This makes it overwhelmingly a good thing.

Kirsten Edwards Kirsten Edwards 10:03 am 10 Jan 21

Summernats is great for business and I think it is important for the community for it to return.

Matt Cole Matt Cole 3:46 pm 09 Jan 21

I don’t have a problem with Summernats, if we can’t have a Supercars race in Canberra, why should we get rid of Summernats? I’m neither a ‘hoon’ or a ‘bogan’, I just love seeing hotted up cars, getting to do burn outs in a legal setting, and it’s only for 4 days a year, and brings in a lot to the Canberra economy, so Summernats should be here to stay!

Rosa Maria Quiroga Rosa Maria Quiroga 1:51 pm 09 Jan 21

There were a lot of cars and people in Braddon and irresponsable guys spinning around a roundabout a few times and high speed :(

Hung Lo Hung Lo 10:45 am 09 Jan 21

No sunburnt infants?

No runaway pollution figures at EPIC?

No revheads gridlocking Northbourne?

It's interesting Canberra wants to be known as a green city then hosts a high polluting event like this..?

Caity Rolfe Caity Rolfe 9:28 pm 08 Jan 21

For those of you complaining about car enthusiasts, remember these people do a lot of good for the community too. These are the same people who raise thousands of dollars numerous times a year for charities, funerals for families who had unexpected deaths or injuries, etc. Car enthusiasts also bring canberra more revenue in one weekend than all the other events put together.

    Hung Lo Hung Lo 10:52 am 09 Jan 21

    Hmmmm, help a charity for guilt-free polluting? 🤔

Adam Jovanovic Adam Jovanovic 9:20 pm 08 Jan 21

According to research published in the New Scientist, the carbon footprint of a sports utility vehicle driven for 10,000 kilometres for a year is about less than half of a medium sized dog like a labrador or a Golden Retriever.

ironduck ironduck 7:06 pm 08 Jan 21

Oh please, they were having a mini version of it outside Majura Park Autobarn last night. I have an e never seen that parking lot full t

Jessicah Mullins Jessicah Mullins 5:18 pm 08 Jan 21

It's good for the economy, but I feel that adjustments need to be made - possibly holding it in a less densely populated area?

The event itself is extremely loud and the fumes are awful. However, I find the behaviour of the visitors to be far worse than the sound and smell coming from the showground. Visitors don't remain at the showground, they flock to Dickson, Braddon and the city. There's no need to rev like a mid-life crisis up and down residential areas, have illegal street burnout comps, throw rocks and bottles at police, or get obnoxiously drunk and harass locals.

The organisers also have no respect for Canberra/Canberrans or public safety. In 2020, Andrew Barr requested that a burnout comp be postponed due to the bushfires and associated fire hazard risks and the organisers refused.

Braden Falconer Braden Falconer 12:15 pm 08 Jan 21

We will make our own 😜

brianf brianf 11:21 am 08 Jan 21

I like it. I’ve only been to a couple but it’s a good show and interesting to see what other people get up to, as with the Balloon Festival, Enlighten, Multicultural Festival, the Folk Festival, Kanga Cup, Floriade, NGA blockbusters, the Fun Run and other big sports events, etc. I know Summernats is noisy and smelly for nearby residents but Floriade is more of an inconvenience to me (path and road closures and extra traffic on my commute), and I figure live and let live and enjoy the spectacle.

Paquita Street Paquita Street 8:31 am 08 Jan 21

Absolutely NOT!!!

Acton Acton 6:35 am 08 Jan 21

This is a Labor Greens voting city whose inhabitants routinely mock and deride the lower class popularity of the Summernats. It is a great event and should remain. Not least because it is an irritant to a city of pretentious ‘progressives’.

lynehamovaluser lynehamovaluser 10:26 pm 07 Jan 21

I’ve just spent the last half hour trying to block out the sound of revving engines, speeding cars and squealing brakes. Perhaps those that didn’t want to be subjected to quarantine on return didn’t go to Greater Sydney and held a mini on road version…my question is will it continue tomorrow and again on Saturday night? Ugh. I’m not a fan, I know it brings funds, I just wish it didn’t disturb my ears.

Peter McDonald Peter McDonald 8:53 pm 07 Jan 21

Sounds like Summernats are here, judging from the hoons on the around about.

Nell Taylor Nell Taylor 8:14 pm 07 Jan 21


Troy Summerfield Troy Summerfield 7:08 pm 07 Jan 21

It should, but probably won’t now that Sydney is holding what’s left of this years event.

Sue Sutton Sue Sutton 7:02 pm 07 Jan 21

Summer what 😆

Peter Burleigh Peter Burleigh 5:11 pm 07 Jan 21

I think you will find that the ACT government has signed a contract with the owner of Summernats for it to be held at EPIC for the next 5 years. As for the comments about wet t-shirt competition they have not held that for years and people attending need to sign an agreement that they will not abuse females or they will be removed from the venue

Avril Pounds Avril Pounds 5:06 pm 07 Jan 21

Personally I won't miss it, but I know it's popular and injects a lot of money into the ACT economy.

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