The Americarna logo really says it all with the tag-line “Celebrating American Culture” and this applies equally to the 600 plus entrants the event attracted this year, or the many thousands of Taranaki residents who crowded the roadsides and flocked to wherever the massive convoy was parked. And it is this local support which really makes this such a fantastic event to take part in, or just to observe from the sidelines.
The concept is simple. Every morning the cars meet at the New Plymouth Racecourse and then travel as the biggest single convoy of cars you are going to see anywhere. From there the Americarna travelling circus moves en mass to one of the local towns to park up in the main street where seemingly every single person within a one-hour radius comes to look. I am pretty sure that when Americarna is in town, there is not a scrap of productivity from any local business! Even education of the in-school kind was suspended. School groups were walking through the cars in each town and every country school we passed had every pupil lining the fence, waving flags or cheering. As a driver you need a minimum of four hands. One for the steering wheel, one to change gear, the third to work the horn and a fourth one for waving duties.
This year’s event had a change of destination for day one. Instead of a run around the mountain, this time we all went to invade Whangamomona instead. For the first time in the town’s history, there was a traffic jam in the main street as 600 cars rolled into a town with a population of 10 people, two dogs and a horse. It was here that the years of planning and experience from the small team led by John (JR) Rae really was on show as the arriving cars were quickly directed into every space, paddock and rugby field within walking distance of the town centre (aka the pub) and even then, there was transport available from the parks to town if a five minute walk in the sunshine wasn’t your thing.