For one week in March every year, the usually quiet streets of the seaside holiday town of Whangamata reverberate with the throb of V8s, the roar of motorbikes and the lively riffs of rock'n'roll. More than 100,000 fans visit this Coromandel town for the biggest festival of its kind in the southern hemisphere. Yes, it's about beautiful classic cars and hotrods, the fragrance of petrol and leather, deeply burnished colours and glittering chrome, but the Repco Beach Hop is so much more than a car show.
It is a lively celebration of a time when social mores began to change and the popular culture was swept with new freedoms and prosperity and the distinctive style of rock 'n 'roll music that was so challenging for previous generations to accept. So basically a whole lot of fun, dancing, costumes and style in some very cool motors.
Repco Beach Hop 20 was an early casualty of Covid-19 travel restrictions, as some participants and performers come from overseas, even bringing their cars with them! The festival was postponed until later in the year, November, which presents a big challenge for organisers. But we get the feeling that the show will go on, regardless. We caught up with organiser Noddy Watts (yes it's a nickname and we're not sure if anyone remembers his real name, Graeme) by email while safely at home in our respective bubbles.
What was the inspiration/motivation behind the Repco Beach Hop 20, and how has that changed (has it)?
Repco Beach Hop 20 is a celebration of the 50s & 60s as we feel that this era saw a huge change in our society after World War 2. Music, fashion, cars, culture etc. all changed dramatically over these 2 decades and that's what we will always celebrate.
It's a pretty big team effort to organise we imagine.
Our Beach Hop team is made up of a 7 person Committee and all do a brilliant job. Marie and I are the only 2 who've been onboard since the Festival started in 2001. We each have our areas that we look after and have the autonomy to make things happen in the best interests of the Festival. We also have our own teams made up of volunteers who donate their time for us all for a T shirt, cap and to be part of a wonderful event. It wouldn't happen without them.
Andrea and I own and operate Kiwis On Tour. Since 2010 we've taken 23 groups of up to 40 people to the USA where we have 3 different tours with our most popular being driving Route 66 in a Mustang convertible. Due to COVID-19 we are unable to travel to the USA this year, so like many businesses at this time we're refocusing what we do and now creating New Zealand tours. We're both passionate about our country and many people in the USA have asked us to bring tours to our homeland which is what we had planned on doing. So now is the time to do it and the response for our "Backyard Tours" has been fantastic. In fact it has blown us away, which shows that Kiwis love to travel but will now look at our own country rather than overseas. There are so many hidden gems that we will be taking our customers to and have included 4 nights on The Coromandel which will help our local economy.
Which is your favourite local drive (or is that a secret)?
The Thames Coast in December is hard to beat with the Pohutukawa in full bloom. Wonderful in a convertible with the top down or on our 50cc Scooters. But whenever we arrive back in Whangamata we alway head straight to the end of Hunt Road to taken the view of the beach.
What is it that is so great about Whangamata for the Beach Hop?
The town has everything we need to support the festival - accommodation, retail, medical centre, Police, TCDC and a great community.
What do hoppers appreciate the most about Beach Hop?
The atmosphere and friendly locals.
What is your favourite place to visit, other than Whangamata of course?
Andrea's Dad has lived at Papa Aroha, just north of Coromandel Town, and we love visiting him there. The drive, the fishing, the sunsets.
Any special anecdote about hoppers (we're pretty sure there will be many)?
We just love seeing all the happy faces!
The Repco Beach Hop 20 also visits the nearby towns of Waihi for a warm up party, Whitianga for a beach party and a Castrol Edge Thunder Cruise to Onemana, sharing the thrills and the smiles as the convoy snakes its way along Coromandel roads. Hoppers love to drive, naturally! Entry is free to the public, programmes are available for a nominal sum, and contain an entry form for the prize draw. Amazingly, the draw winner will choose between a 1965 Ford Mustang, 2020 Harley-Davidson or $10,000 cash prize. All part of the electric atmosphere.