Event Coverage: Waterfest 17 2011

For any Volkswagen enthusiast on the east coast, mid July is a very special time. Throughout New England at this time, garage doors open to reveal the results of countless hours of work put in by VW owners in the area. As they roll out, donned with painters’ tape and stuffed with gear for the weekend, they all point the same direction: Englishtown, NJ. Englishtown in the middle of July can only mean one thing, Waterfest.

In the past, similar scenes could be seen in the Midwest, and even the west coast, though a few days before the Right Coasters set out on their journey. Waterfest has long been considered a pilgrimage for Volkswagen fans who wish to see the finest examples of enthusiast-built VWs in the country. And driving from Chicago every year, we here at VWvortex have been in the thick of it, finding ourselves suddenly engulfed in the multiple-hundred-car cruises that used to start as far away as Kansas City and stop at every major metropolis on the way to New Jersey.

But over the past couple of years, we’ve noticed this becoming less and less the case. Where in the past we’d read threads in our forums organizing cruises starting at rest stops along the Illinois highways and going along the turnpike, this year we couldn’t find a single such thread. And on 14-hour drive out, we only came across five ‘Fest-goers.

So one would think this is indicative in waning interest in the show, and that’s what we thought at first. But standing on the show grounds on Saturday and Sunday, traffic hadn’t seemed to slow at all. This fact was supported further on Sunday, where the show field that was suspiciously empty last year, we found lots of fine examples from every generation.

While we’re on the subject of the show, it’s no exaggeration to say that the quality and sheer amount of work that goes into building one of these cars is unlike anything we’ve ever seen before. Where a simple drop and body kit flew for a spectacular show car a few years ago, this practice is now considered entry level work, with extensive body work, engine swaps, and some meticulous air ride suspension setups now considered the norm.

The types of cars that were represented this year was another interesting difference from years past. While Golfs and Jettas are still the most represented models by far, other models that barely made blips on the radar in previous years were seriously represented. Probably the biggest example of this would be the CC. While last year there were only a handful found anywhere on the grounds, this year an entire corner of the show field alone was taken over by the swoopy sedan.

Talking to Dan Bohrmann, who puts on Waterfest every year, attendance actually went up from last year, to over 21,000. He also said that this year had more vendors show up than last year, many having record sales for the event. Which makes us think about the drive out. Sure we didn’t see as many cars on the road out as usual, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the show itself is on its way out. We suspect it had more to do with the cost of gas to get out to New Jersey than anything. Because looking at attendance, and looking at how well vendors did, it’s easy to see Waterfest is still going strong.

Make sure you check out the photos of the entire show field, exhibition area, and vendor area from the weekend by clicking below.

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