July 26, 2002

Waterfest 2002
Text and Photos by Jason Teller

It wasn't that I hadn't been warned, or that I had never been to an enthusiast car event in the past. And there was nothing particularly different about being in New Jersey. I had, after all, lived in New York for a year and the area was well known to me. Drag racing? Been there and seen that many times. Even faithfully restored classics displayed with pride alongside the latest "bling-bling", larger than life, fully-modded cars is not that unusual.

Yet despite my familiarity with all these things I believe I can honestly say that I was wholly unprepared for Waterfest 2002. Perhaps the same thing could be said even by those who have many Waterfest events to their credit, since by all accounts it was the largest, most diverse and best organized of any previous show. Waterfest 2002 seemed to have a little something for everybody, leaving a newcomer like myself with too few hours in the day to take everything in.

With the issue of my Waterfest virginity thoroughly exhausted, however, it would be appropriate to talk a little about the cars too.

Waterfest is a VW event first and foremost. You realize this some odd 40-50 miles away from the event location itself when you sense an inordinate density of Volkswagens in your immediate vicinity on the highway. License plates from up and down the east coast and points further west dot the backs of Sciroccos, Passats, Jettas, Old and New Beetles and every other VW-variant in between. Lest we forget that Audi, too, is a VW brand, you note that the new A4 in the far lane is just a little to shiny and that the A6 you passed at a gas station a ways back looks trick in a set of 19" wheels. Although the VW to Audi ratio is 10:1 or greater, it is still clear that the 4-rings are out and about.

Jump ahead to Saturday night before the event and start making the rounds between the official event hotels. You get an instantaneous pang of sympathy for Mr. and Mrs. Joe Blow America who just happen to have picked the same hotel that night on their vacation from Topeka to Albany. Because tonight will see ordinary hotel parking lots turned into something between The Fast and the Furious and Mardi Gras. People are drinking, rubber is burning, engines are revving, girl's skirts seem a little shorter than usual and muscle-bound guys have somehow lost their tank tops. The police show up, the crowds disperse and then it all starts up again.

If you did nothing else then drive around on Saturday in the vicinity of the event and then visit some of the hotels, you'd get a pretty good idea about the spirit of today's Waterfest. The event is like an urban, auto-loving version of the Burning Man festival. United by a common love for Wolfsburg's (and to a lesser extent Ingolstadt's) most famous exports, the people come together in a party-like atmosphere to swap stories and share their automotive pride and joy. As a testament to the brands' widespread appeal, the attendees appear to be a diverse group in terms of age, sex and cultural background.

The show itself was held at Raceway Park in Englishtown, NJ, which turned out to be well up to the task. With two enormous parking lots (one on each side of the drag strip) there was the "inside" area with all of the vehicle and vendor displays, as well as the outside parking lot that turned into a mini-show in and of itself. I didn't get official numbers, but it's safe to say that the number of officially displayed vehicles was in the hundreds and attendees in the thousands.

The AudiWorld / VWvortex booth sat fairly well in the middle of the vendor area. We were pleased to show three unique automobiles: the Motopersona Audi RS4 sedan that was featured earlier this year, our ProjekTT Roadster and a Denim Blue 2002 A4 1.8T courtesy of Audi Accessories complete with 18" RSII alloy wheels, Audi aerodynamic styling kit, sun room air deflector, stainless steel grille strips, molded trunk liner with Cargo Logic Blocs, premium rubber floor mats, burl walnut shift knob and glove box 6 pack CD changer. Unfortunately the total number of Audis at the show was somewhat sparse; together with our three and perhaps ten more in other vendor's booths I would put the total number at fifty or less. This is one area where Waterfest still has ample room to grow.

The show was extremely well attended by vendors, giving enthusiasts a chance to put human faces to the various owners and employees with whom they'd previously communicated only by phone or e-mail. Compact items such as ECU's, diverter valves, shift knobs, short-shifters and swag were selling briskly, while larger wheels, exhausts, and other aftermarket parts were on display for potential follow-up orders. At the AudiWorld booth we did fair trade on new logo t-shirts, license plate frames and logo decals.

Kudos to the Waterfest organizers for putting on a first class event for Volkswagen and Audi enthusiasts; it has become the de facto standard on the east coast and did everything required this year to maintain that position. Enthusiasts on the west coast should not despair since the Waterwagens event is coming up Sunday, August 4th in Olympia, WA.

Pages: [1] [2]