Considering the struggles Americarna 2015 faced late last year, including being cancelled for a short while, the festival turned out to be a roaring success. Officially kicking off on Thursday, February 26, Americarna ran through the Saturday, under Taranaki’s welcoming skies.
Thursday’s morning began with the Rest Home Run, which gave participants the chance to brighten up the day of local rest home residents by stopping in and offering rides and entertainment to New Plymouth’s elderly. Participants were split into groups of around eight cars to visit a number of local rest homes — the group we tagged along with headed to Molly Ryan Lifecare and Retirement Village, where the residents were waiting with open arms.
Parking the cars over the front lawn gave most of Molly Ryan’s 100-plus residents some interesting viewing, and for the more brave-hearted, rides around the block were also offered — a fair number put their hands up for this experience. One of these was Laurie Bond, ex-mayor of Stratford, who was taken for a spin in Peter Lind’s replica AC Cobra. Running a healthy 347ci stroker engine and Tremec five-speed, upon return it was joked that it was lucky Laurie had glued his toupée on — Laurie is actually fortunate enough to possess a full head of hair!
The variety of cars on offer meant that a fair number of Molly Ryan’s residents were able to get out and about and make the most of the experience. Even though the Rest Home Run wasn’t an ‘official’ part of the Americarna schedule, being totally optional, it was great to see the large number of participants happy to take the time to brighten the days of the retired locals.
Americarna kicked off properly at 2.30pm outside TSB Stadium, with a cruise to Inglewood planned for the afternoon. The cruise route would leave New Plymouth for Egmont Village, then take the scenic route to Inglewood, via Waitara, and down through the Tarata tunnel. That tunnel provided a well-enjoyed interlude to the cruising, and its walls almost constantly reverberated with the noise that only a big, American V8 can make under wide open throttle.
As the final destination for Americarna’s opening day, the streets of Inglewood filled up with the American procession by late afternoon — all up, Inglewood’s main street and the bulk of the train station’s space was filled with the delectable selection of American automobilia. Just wandering through the crowded aisles to take in all of the different vehicles on display was an experience in itself, but if you ever felt like a break from the American iron, a multitude of distractions offered a reprieve — live music, food stalls and local shops, and merchant stalls all held interesting sights adding to the Americarna experience.
For the introductory day to Americarna 2015, Thursday definitely started on the right track. Of course, the other days were as good, if not better — that’s what made this year’s Americarna so impressive; that ability to put together a great experience despite the not insignificant setbacks faced.