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The end of March 2015 signalled the 15th Beach Hop in the seaside town of Whangamata. Billed as New Zealand’s number one nostalgia festival, the Beach Hop easily lives up to that claim.
And yet as I strolled along Port Road, Whangamata’s main street, past a Ferrari F355 Spider, a Lamborghini Gallardo and a Nissan GTR Godzilla, all in silver, I wondered if I really was at the Beach Hop. But then I looked around and saw normal service had been resumed for another year — hot rods, classics, vintage, customs, just about any style and brand of motor vehicle you could imagine were cruising back and forth along the street, and it was only Tuesday.
The Beach Hop kicked off on the Wednesday with the Waihi Warm-up — a cruise to the gold-mining town for a street party. One of the highlights was listening to Tim & the Rockets playing some great music in the historic old Cornish Pump House, with amazing acoustics. Another was the now-traditional drag race. Not exactly car related, this comprised men dressed in women’s clothing sprinting up the main street. Make-up, beards and tutus make an interesting mix.
On Thursday the ever-growing number of vehicles wended its way over to Tairua for a relaxed few hours by the beach, before returning to Whangamata for more main-street cruising well into the evening. Unfortunately the weather literally put a damper on things, and the wet hung around all day on Friday. It didn’t stop the Thunder Cruise (open exhausts encouraged) out to nearby Onemana, but quite a few pulled out of the cruise on the way, obviously not fancying several hours with no shelter.
Saturday dawned fairly promising for the Grand Parade and Whangamata street party, but the weather didn’t live up to it, with showers on and off for the morning, and steadier light rain for most of the afternoon. Many proved that car people can be a hardy bunch, but the crowds thinned out a bit quicker than usual. Most, of course, weren’t leaving until the winner of the giveaway car had been announced. This stunning metallic blue, mildly-customized 1950 Mercury coupé was won by a very fortunate young woman from Auckland.
Bands at strategic points along Port Road, and the ever-present cruising that’s become such a major and popular part of the Hop, ensured the remaining people were entertained for the evening.