It’s funny how things can just seem to sneak up on you. This can happen for many reasons, be it because the schedule’s too full, or the fanfare isn’t as loud as expected. Waterfest, for the VWvortex crew this year, suffered from a little bit of both. With the recent forum changes, and trying to get things ironed out, we were certainly busy enough. But the more interesting fact is the latter reason, the fanfare. After a quick browse through the forums in the weeks preceding the event, there didn’t seem to be the same amount of buzz about the show as in years past. Nevertheless, we packed our project GTI up with tents and 500 t-shirts and hit the road for New Jersey.
Over 16 years Waterfest has continued an aggressive rate of growth with consistent management and placement on the calendar. New events such as drag racing and burnout competitions have been added as needed during that time but it has to be the industry focus and also the casual cars on display that have come to dominate this New Jersey staple.
Saturday, typically the more laid back of the two days the event covers, certainly would’ve verified the feelings we had before the event, if it were just taken on its own. The vendor area didn’t seem as busy as normal, and the show grounds felt a little sparse. But that isn’t to say no one was at the event. The exhibition lot in the back corner of the venue was busier than we’ve ever seen. One must keep in mind, though, that Saturday isn’t when the big events, like the drag races, burnout competition, and judged show take place, so there isn’t much stock to be taken in that. And we certainly had no issues whatsoever giving away our t-shirts, for which we thank all of you.
Sunday only proved that we shouldn’t take Saturday’s numbers too seriously. When the gates opened at the park, things started to get back to the old Waterfest feeling. It was rather apparent that many show-goers saved the trip for Saturday night, and didn’t attend the show until Sunday. The vendor area was back to normal levels, with many people carrying coilover kits and body panels under their arms. And, as always, the line at the chip tuning booths was pretty formidable. Once again Volkswagen was on hand, also giving away some free garb, and showing some very cool cars. Highlighting the booth was a Volkswagen Accessories-equipped Jetta 6, alongside the SEMA CC show car, and a Stage III Tiguan. Overall, many vendors reported strong sales, on par with previous years. Again, not too many big-ticket items were sold this year, but that may have more to do with the economy than anything.
If low numbers were felt anywhere, it was out in the show field. For the first time in a while, there were empty spots in the parking lot along the track. But, like last year, that didn’t mean the quality wasn’t up to snuff. There were some very well put together cars, whether carrying a theme throughout or just maintaining a high level of craftsmanship, that graced the show field. One car that we never thought we’d see gracing the water-cooled-dominant event was a hot-rodded Beetle, complete with matte black paint, pinstriping, and Coca-Cola bottle opener on the hood.
Again on Sunday the show field looked a bit different with empty slots, but it was all organizers could do to fit vehicles in the overflowing unjudged exhibition area. Unlike any year on record, this section was filled beyond capacity, with cars and tents along the shores of Englishtown’s water skiing pond. Why the difference? Perhaps the priorities of most enthusiasts is changing, coming along for the vendor deals and the opportunity to hang out with friends, instead of spending all weekend trying to bring a trophy home. We suspect this is why the event as a whole felt lighter, with fans spending their time out in the field more than on the blacktop of the show and vendor areas as a whole.
Overall, Waterfest still proved to be the big player in the Volkswagen show season. While numbers seemed to be a bit down from the usual 20,000, there certainly wasn’t any lack of activity as a result. At any rate, it’s always a good excuse to get together with a crowd of like-minded people and just hang out for the weekend. We look forward to doing it again next year.
Once again, VWvortex would like to thank all of our readers that came out for shirts and stickers, and stopped to chat with us, including one winner who took a month leave from the Air Force to drive from California and back for the event. We would also like to extend a big thanks to our sponsors who helped make our t-shirt giveaway such a success. Those sponsors, and what they donated are as follows:
VW Driver Gear – $100 Gift Card
Black Forest Industries – JOM Coilovers
42 Draft Designs – Stealth Catch Can
APR – Fully Loaded ECU Upgrade
AWE Tuning – Two Dyno Pulls
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