Here comes Americarna

Look out Whangamomona - Americarna is coming to town.

Organisers of this year's Taranaki celebration of American cars have rejigged the event so that instead of the fleet of at least 700 vehicles going on a cruise to Opunake, they're going to head into eastern Taranaki.

That's not the only significant change. The traditional Americarna country fair at the New Plymouth racecourse has been dropped, and replaced with an event called AmericCARnival, which will be based in the city's CBD, which will be closed off for an entire Saturday.

"Whangamomona is a pretty famous place, so we've decided to head there this year," says Americarna event co-ordinator Bob Anderson of the trip out east.

"Not only that, but the drive out there from Stratford is special. The people of Whanga intend to really get behind the event, so we're confident all the visitors to Taranaki will have a very good time out there."

And the Americarna organisers are also confident the change from a country fair to central city carnival will also prove successful.

"We want to give our retailers a real opportunity to benefit from this year's Americarna, so we're heading down town," says Anderson.

"There's not going to be any entry fee, and we're hoping the day will showcase and enliven the CBD like never before. We're confident it will bring thousands of people into the central area and help boost the retail sector."

This year's Americarna starts on Tuesday February 25 when participants begin to arrive in Taranaki and officially register for the big event.

On the Wednesday the Americarna fleet heads out to Whangamomona, and the following day they'll be visiting rest homes in New Plymouth before driving a loop to Waitara and Inglewood.

Friday February 28 is a big day, because that's when the Americarna participants head to Stratford and Hawera, before returning to New Plymouth for their very popular arrival down Mangorei Rd followed by the traditional Friday night main street cruise in central New Plymouth.

In previous years a number of New Plymouth groups have organised street parties along Mangorei Rd to welcome the American vehicles as they return to the city, and thousands line Devon St in the CBD for the main street cruise.

On Saturday March 1 the entire New Plymouth CBD from Eliot St to Robe St will be closed off from 7am to 4pm, and it will be transformed into a carnival area.

Puke Ariki Landing will become a children's playground featuring free entertainment and exciting rides, the Brougham St area outside the library will be a display area showcasing rare and interesting cars, Huatoki Plaza will be transformed into a sponsor hub, and there will be live music on the Devon St flat area.

The green area adjacent to the New Plymouth Clock Tower will become a market place, and the clock tower itself will be opened for viewing - entry will be by gold coin donation, with all proceeds going to the Hatch (Help a Taranaki child) Trust which helps less advantaged Taranaki youngsters embark on their chosen career or education paths.

It is hoped all the retailers in the CBD will get behind the event by opening their doors for the duration of the carnival and dressing up their shops in red, white and blue or other American themes, says Anderson.

Planning is going well for this year's Americarna, which the organisers intend to make an annual event in Taranaki. It is likely that a maximum field of 700 American vehicles will be registered - and research shows that traditionally each car will carry an average of 2.4 people, 75 per cent of whom will be from outside the region.

Motor will be publishing a regular Americarna newsletter in the weeks leading up to the big event, to keep you up to date on how the organising is going.

Taranaki Daily News