Cool cars warm wet fans

KIRSTY MCMURRAY
Last updated 05:00 23/02/2012

Soggy weather fails to dampen the Waitara leg of Americarna on day one of the 2012 festival

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SWEET CADILAC: Peter Donnell from Lower Hutt shows off his 1963 Cadillac De Ville at Americarna.

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Cars, people and rain poured out on to the streets in Waitara and Inglewood yesterday as Americarna got off to a soggy start.

There were raincoats, gumboots and umbrellas galore but the cars mattered to the people more than the rain, and many a weather-proofed enthusiast was out to inspect the classic American automobiles.

Waitara woman Tuti Wetere was jacketed up and out enjoying the show.

"It's marvellous for the community. It's lovely to have this right here for Waitara and I don't even mind the rain, it's refreshing," she said.

Theo Chadfield, 6, of New Plymouth, wasn't bothered by the rain either and was relishing having a day off school riding in grandad Allan Davies' 1960 Rambler Ambassador.

"I wish it was Americarna every day," Theo said.

Visitors from all over were having a break from work to attend the festival.

Whitianga men Steve Harwood and Colin McKay were driving their cars, a 1960 Impala and a Ford Shelby Mustang respectively, in Americarna and said it was great to see a little town like Waitara participating in a big event.

"For a small community they've made a big effort to make us welcome. We know what it's like to be from somewhere small and it's good to see them making the most of this," Mr Harwood said.

Both men were particularly impressed with the food.

"We just had some Indian from up the road there and it was really good," Mr McKay said.

They also said they could see the bad weather was good for business in Waitara's cafes and watering holes.

"The rain's pushing people inside and when they're in they're spending their money there," Mr Harwood said.

Despite abundant roadside coffee and food stalls, Maggies cafe was doing a roaring trade and by 2pm had sold more than three times the number of coffees than they usually would on a Wednesday.

David Tyler from Bury St Edmonds, in Suffolk, England, was inside waiting for his caffeine fix. He said he came to New Zealand to escape the cold English winter and has happily managed to time his trip with Americarna for several years.

"I like coming to Taranaki. The people are nicer here and it's got a good atmosphere. I've got friends in Hawke's Bay and Auckland but I like it here best," he said.

This year, for the first time, Sheryl's Traffic Management Solutions directed more than 650 cars to park down Waitara's main and side streets.

"It was a breeze. No trouble at all. We even managed to keep an emergency lane open," Sheryl said.

The general consensus was that having the cars in the middle of town was a vast improvement on previous years when the cars had been parked a bit further out.

"It's great having them right in the thick of things and close to all the shops," said Waitara's Lorraine Coster.

The show had only just begun when at 12.51pm a minute of silence was called for Christchurch. For a few moments there wasn't a honk to be heard on the busy streets of Waitara, but the solemn quiet was shortly interrupted, and ended, by the bleat of a sheep being used for a "guess the weight" competition.

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New Plymouth man Glen Osment and his sons Brendan, Aaron and Jarrod were out in their blue 1986 I Roc Camaro. "I was going to wash and polish it yesterday but didn't get a chance and there's no point now anyway," said Glen before they moved off.

The convoy lost a few cars on the way out to Inglewood at 3.30pm, but there were still plenty to be admired parked up and down Rata St and just as much food, music and good mood as in Waitara.

Punters at the Hairy Dog were vying for seats near the open windows so they could watch the show while staying warm and dry with a pint in hand.

Mike Southwell and Chrissy Best from Midhirst parked up outside the pub after missing out on Waitara when water got in the distributor of Mike's Buick Nash Special. Mr Southwell had been working on the truck with the help of Arthur, an 80-year-old panel beater from Stratford, for a long time and was pleased to at last be able to take it to Americarna. "It's finally done so I don't care about the weather, I'm just glad to be here," he said.

Organisers in Inglewood had the same positive attitude Derek McInnes helped direct the festivities from under his umbrella.

"At the end of the day you have to look past the rain and have fun and make the best of it," he said.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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