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Posted 30 July 2007 - 02:54 PM
Has Waterfest become too commercial? Thatʼs one question that was posed to us as we sat atop the grandstands at Raceway Park in Englishtown, NJ and looked out over the kingdom organizers of Americaʼs largest VW and Audi enthusiast show have created - to the right, a large show field, to the left a burgeoning exhibition field, and in the center… one of the largest vendor areas Waterfest or any VW or Audi owner has ever seen. Now in its thirteenth year, Waterfest has grown from underground enthusiast event to major industry gathering, where bumping into Alex Roy and his Gumball 3000 Team Polizei group in their antenna and sticker-laden BMW M5 reminds us just how discovered this show has become.
Walking around the vendor area, itʼs hard to argue that the weekend hasnʼt been re-dressed in slick new corporate apparel. Whether or not thatʼs a good thing is debatable, but seeing the usual players with polished presentations suggests Waterfest is more a reflection of the industry as a whole. One-time startups themselves, companies with exhibits like Stratmosphereʼs cool enthusiast lounge, attention-getting displays like AWEʼs prize-spewing ice sculptures or APRʼs new SEMA-show-car-inspired corporate look merchandised into clothing, car graphics and packaging for their products prove how far the whole scene has come. Even more, these three werenʼt the only ones with an eye-catching new presentation… theyʼre simply the ones that come to mind.
Final tallies for visitors have yet to be published, but weʼd be surprised if the numbers reported by Waterfest Productions werenʼt in record territory again this year. A solid stream of cars and enthusiasts made their way into the track at Englishtown this past weekend, with cool temps and sunny skies.
Weather-wise, organizers couldnʼt have asked for better conditions.
As always, there were new trends to be spotted and you didnʼt need to be Demetri Martin to take notice. Black painted wheels of all varieties seemed to be the most common - from custom wide “steelies”, to aftermarket alloys and even refinished factory or OEM replica wheels. Gloss black rims were everywhere, even new wheels in vendor booths like that of RaderWerks with their alternative finish - a different spin on the replica wheel business.
Speaking of OEM, the OEM plus look is definitely gaining momentum. From new Audi fitment replica wheels like one of the first sets of Hartmann Gallardo replicas on a yellow B6 S4, to yet another B5 RS 4 sedan in pearl white with titanium finish B7 RS 4 wheels, there were plenty sporting that could-be-factory look. In the vendor area, we particularly liked the custom-ordered Sprint Blue A3 with 19-inch A8 turbine wheels and non-flared Nothelle body kit from Riverside Audi.
Our favorite modification though had to go to the factory-like install of S6 LED daytime running lights on the Grey A4 2.0T S-line owned by Greg from DubAudi. Blending in TT lower grille mesh to match the carʼs RS 4 shield grille, youʼd be hard pressed to guess that the grey Avant wasnʼt offered like that from the factory – exemplifying the best of the best in OEMplus if you ask us.
The 2.0T is also now attracting the same amount of attention from the aftermarket as the old 1.8T. APR brought out their GTI SEMA show car with the Alabama-based companyʼs Stage III kit, VF engineering their own staged kits co-developed with partners GIAC and AWE Tuning, and REVO their new staged kits co-developed with Autotech.
Even though OEMplus has grown in popularity, cars displaying all the aftermarket has to offer never go out of style at shows like Waterfest. Some of the more extreme TTs and A3s youʼll find were on display in the show field, along with the awesome white TT of VAG Motorsport in the vendor area or an Aviator Grey coupe with Lambo-style-doors in the show field.
So is Waterfest too big… too corporate? Weʼll agree that itʼs growing, but not that the growth is a bad thing. No, itʼs no longer the gathering of enthusiasts in a parking lot that it once was (that now happens at a nearby Chiliʼs on Saturday night of show weekend by the way). Instead, the show is evolving into something more akin to Germanyʼs Essen Motor Show. The Vendor area, clearly the quickest growing section, attracts enthusiasts who march in and then out, like ants, back out to their cars and carrying newly purchased parts over their heads. Itʼs where you need to go if you want to see just about anyone or anything in the industry.
Waterfest also offers much of the same old same old. Thereʼs the drag racing, the autocross and the show-outside-the-show that is the parking lot. Thereʼs the overflowing exhibition field that catches many of the quality non-show cars whose owners donʼt care to subject them to the wilds of the parking lot all day. That field also plays home to clubs like the local Cool Water ownerʼs club, Audizine.com forum members and the Delaware Valley Audi Group.
Thereʼs the same range of show cars, from clean to kitsch. The folks at Will-Call still hassle you if you ask for extra vendor passes, even if youʼre Gumball celebrity Alex Roy or title sponsor APR. To these women baking away in the heat of that tin-roofed shack, weʼre all equal.
Yes, Waterfest has changed in many ways. Itʼs evolved, and thatʼs progress. Romantics may complain that the grass-roots nature of early events has gone, though there are many shows which fill that void today. Like the New York region to which Waterfest has always catered, this show may be big and brash, but it also offers something for everyone. Thatʼs why we love it, and thatʼs why we return year-after-year.
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