|July 23, 2009
Text and Photos: Kris Hansen
I’d hesitate to say that Waterfest is the only event in the Northeast worth going to, but for Audi and VW fans looking for the ultimate in automotive events, Waterfest is surely the best, and the biggest by far. The folks who organize Waterfest never cease to amaze with the level of planning, setup, security, and attention to detail. Little is left to be desired at Waterfest.
In this, AudiWorlds 8th annual trek to what is undeniably the Mecca of Audi and VW shows we wondered: given the worlds slumping economies, what kind of changes would we find at Waterfest 15? Turns out it really didnt seem to have all that much impact, other than a lower than hoped vendor turnout.
Held again at the vast and accommodating Raceway Park in Englishtown New Jersey, Waterfest is able to provide all of the various activities one would come to expect from an all encompassing event the size of Waterfest. Offered is; drag racing on the NHRA pro level 1/4 mile track, an autocross school, a judged car show, a 4 wheel drive capable dyno for horsepower battles, a huge meet and greet type parking area, and an even bigger vendor area in the midway. There are food vendors, parts vendors, tuning stations, and even an old fashioned swap meet area, where deals are sure to be had on used parts for just about any model VW or Audi.
This year’s show was just as expertly organized as we have come to expect, though it was evident that vendor turnout was lower than in years past, no doubt due to the sagging economy.
Saturday was very quiet compared to previous visits to Waterfest, though based on the quantity of cars in the meet and greet area, which may have been misleading, as we found the main lot full, and the overflow lot at least half full.
Sunday did seem to be just as busy as we would expect (if not more so), not only were the lots brimming with cars, there was a steady flow of people moving about the midway all day. The beautiful weather surely contributed to this; it was in the mid 80s, and very sunny all weekend. We have been told by Waterfest organizers that attendance was in fact up, however, vendors are reporting lower than expected sales results.
Waterfest officials told us that the attendance number was exactly the same as last year, at 21,000 people. It’s clear that Waterfest still has tremendous drawing power.
We did notice that there seemed to be a bit less participation in the drag racing as wed come to expect, there were a few moments of quiet on the strip. That didnt stop the many spectators from having a good time however, and enthusiastic cheers went out when a really fast time flashed on the board. We witnessed a few cars that ran in the 10s, and we know of at least 2 that were in the 9s, which is quick indeed!
One thing that didnt seem down at all was the line of cars running through the various chip tuning stations, the most obvious being APR, which had what looked like a turnpike toll plaza setup, with a small sea of cars queued up.
Also apparent was that many people werent afraid of spending some of their hard earned money on parts for their cars. We noticed many armloads of parts being schlepped around the midway, often it appeared people were making multiple trips out to their cars in the parking areas. We even witnessed a few of the yellow shirted Waterfest Security staffers giving people with particularly large items out towards the parking lot in their golf carts.
Waterfest is somewhat notorious for having an abundant après-show atmosphere, and this tradition is going strong, even if local police agencies are working to crack down on the worst of the shenanigans. Its not uncommon to find mini-get-togethers all around the larger Englishtown area well into the early mornings.
We had a great time at Waterfest 15, and weve begun making plans for our 9th trip to the biggest Audi and VW show on the east coast, and Waterfest’s “Sweet 16”.