6 January 2021

Will anyone be missing Summernats in Canberra this weekend?

| Zoya Patel
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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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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.

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

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.

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’.

lynehamovaluser10:26 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 Burleigh5:11 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

“”Will anyone be missing Summernats in Canberra this weekend?””

Maccas at Dickson.

Personally I’ve never been to Summernats and never have any intention of going but the yearly opposition to this festival often leaves me dejected that many of so called “enlightened” citizens can’t stand the fact that other people don’t like exactly the same things that they do.

The reaction highlights the worst aspects of our city and a proportion of the population’s unwillingness to accept any inconvenience to their own preferences.

The festival brings in millions to the economy and is an example of the ability to actually foster a diverse culture that is more accepting of differing points of view and lifestyles. It should be celebrated.

rationalobserver9:02 am 07 Jan 21

If nothing else, summernats serves as a reminder that culture is not restricted to ones ethnic origins. It reminds us that all cultures should be respected, not just the ones we align with.
The people who support Summernats get to put up with a great deal of Canberra imposed PC rubbish for 365 days a year. It’s not unreasonable for the PC brigade to be exposed to 3 or 4 day recalibration each year.

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