VDub Camp Fest A.K.A Camp Fest A.K.A Fest - SA's biggest and most successful gathering of Volkswagens and other VAG-related cars. How big is big? Well from my own guestimate it was at least 5000 strong, but there were probably more people than that. This year the event was moved to a new venue, Eagle Waters Resort in Hartebeespoort, which is definitely the best one to date. The main stage and show area is on the banks of the dam which made for great pics and (besides the alcohol) is probably one of the reasons that everyone was in such a great mood.
I was there as a guest of my good mates at the Volkswagen Club of SA, it was my job to represent them as a judge in the show & shine event, so I tagged along with them and stayed in luxury tents from Friday to Sunday. The accommodation was great and while inside the resort, it was far enough away from the camp site and party to be able to get a good few hours of sleep in. Usually I wouldn't bother and would have fun showing the young chaps just how to party, but being a judge meant I had to be well rested and on top of my game. I was also commissioned to cover the event for a few people so I couldn't afford to be tired, especially in the energy-sapping heat. Friday was pretty much just a travel day followed by a chill session in a long queue, setting ourselves up in our digs, a braai and some great chats.
Before I carry on I just have to send a huge shoutout to Volkswagen SA for hooking me up with a shiny and new 2016 Polo GTi to use for the weekend. Arriving at the biggest gathering of VWs in something other than a VW would have just been wrong. Not only did they hook me up, they also gave a new Cross Polo to international guest judge Jamie Orr from Performance VW magazine and also an Audi Q7 for another judge, Jacob Moshokoa, a presenter and news anchor on 947 as well as the man behind Epic Dubs. Volkswagen SA - you guys rock!
Saturday saw an early start for the VWCSA guys and while I could have had a bit of a lie in, I was up at the crack of dawn to join them in setting up their stand just opposite the main stage. Ok, to be fair I sorta watched them set things up and then quietly slipped away to walk around and snap some pics. There were a few things billed to take place on the day but I was only worried about the show & shine judging. It was meant to take place earlier in the day but only really got underway just at around 14:30. Together with my fellow judges, the aforementioned Jamie Orr and Jacob Moshokoa, I was joined by fellow VW nutter and owner of RC Performance Nico di Folco as well as Chazlin Haskins from Cum Laude Events who organised Fest. We judged around 20 of the entrants over the next three hours before calling it quits. There were a few more cars we could have judged but the owners weren't ready for scrutiny. I'm sure there were more but the guys decided to spend the Saturday at their camp sites instead of in the main arena and would rather compete with the rest of the cars on the Sunday - the main day for show & shine.
After the judging ended the resort closed for the day which meant the thousands of day visitors had to leave the grounds, all that was left was the other thousand or so people camping and ready for a good party. We headed back to our tent and freshened up, had a bit of a braai and then went to check out the party. The party site was great, DJs were spinning tunes from behind a front cut of a Mk1 Golf and we ended up dancing in some white beach sand for a while. We stayed long enough to hear Mi Casa, the headline act, kick off their show just after 23:00 and then headed to bed. More rest was needed for Sunday, the main day of Fest.
Sunday saw us rising at a sparrow's fart again thanks to Oettinger SA's Chris Potgieter who has some sort of aversion to sleeping late. Also the lights in our tent were quite possibly brighter than the sun, and all three lights operated from a single switch. So that rudely interrupted my spooning session with VWSCA Chairman Ian Foat (I was the big spoon). Speed & Sounds's Darren Townsley tried his best to ignore the blinding man-made sun but there was no resisting. Up and at 'em. At the main stage things were buzzing and at around 06:30 the gates were opened to let the day visitors in, many of whom had been waiting since as early as 04:00. There were hundreds of cars in the queue that backed up to an estimated 5km.
Judging started a little later than billed, but we went though the cars at a better pace than the day before. The calibre of cars has stepped up from last year, it made the job quite a mission. It was good to see that many owners had actually listened to the critisism from the year before and made the necessary changes to help them score points. There were 106 cars entered but some didn't show and others pulled out, so we got through all the cars by 17:30 or so. In a few of the classes the points difference between winning and not winning (there was only a 1st place awarded per class, no runners up this year) was super close. Another thing worth noting is that more than half of the cars entered in the more popular classes were on air ride suspension - bags were the order of the day. It's impressive what people are spending on their cars now.
That brings me to a little rant - some of the cars that entered shouldn't have been in the running, they were far from show quality, especially a show of this size and calibre. There were also cars that were great but dirty. I mean yeah, dust happens when you're waiting to get on stage, but if the guys that won their classes could have a spotless car then there was no excuse for the rest not to. I think some people need guidelines on what exactly a show & shine event is. We saw interiors with shoes and shopping bags in, boots full of crap, dirty windows and filthy engine bays. I would have been embarrassed to have some of the cars at the event, never mind in the show & shine competition. I actually wanted to do what they do overseas and wear white cotton gloves and run my finger over parts of the cars to see if the were clean but that would have ruined a few pairs of gloves. If I'm involved next year I'd love to be part of the pre-judging panel that approves cars for entry. There were plenty cars in the parking section and the camp site that were better than the cars that entered, I'm not sure if the guys aren't confident that their cars can compete or if they just don't want to show off, but the results would have been completely different if they did. The Beetle above is just one example.
Overall it was a great Fest, the best one to date. Sadly online I've seen a bunch of complaints about it with many saying it's their last fest ever because the organisers cocked up many things. Firstly there was the queue that was a problem, but I think at an event of this size a long queue is inevitable. All the cars were searched for bottles and weapons which this upset a lot of people, but that's par for the course at most places these days. Some people complained that things in their cars were broken when security searched, if that did happen, I agree that a complaint is warranted, but I think many were upset because there was no way to jump the queue and it was strictly controlled.
Another complaint was that the toilets were a disgrace, and yeah, I agree 110%. This was not due to any fault of the organisers, this falls solely on the event attendees. We were camped next to the facilities and they were big enough to cater for the crowds. I used the loo early on Saturday morning and they were spotless. At lunch time I went again and there was pee all over the floors, 3 urinals were blocked with toilet paper and one of the toilets was full of blood, vomit and shit. I can promise you that none of the organisers did that. Sure, have a clean up crew handy to sort out issues but who would wanna clean up that, paid or not? Luckily there was a clean up crew though, and I watched them clean a few times. By 14:00 the loos were spotless but when I was back at 17:00 it was the same story. If I needed to go I'd rather choose the toilet from Trainspotting than at the resort. This is easy to rectify - if you see someone pissing on the floor, slap them upside the head, if you see them chucking bogroll in the urinals, slap them upside the head, if you see them smearing crap on the toilet stall doors (I'm serious, this happened!), kick them in the fukken nuts. Toilets are communal, if everyone has a little respect they would stay clean all day.
I also saw a complaint saying the organisers left a hole open and someone fell in and broke their leg. That sucks and I feel bad for that person, but that hole wasn't there thanks to any fault of the organisers - that falls solely on the venue. They should have inspected their property and fixed things that were wrong when the venue was booked for the event, it's not Cum Laude's job to inspect a few hectares of property. I hope that person takes it up with the resort who should have public liability insurance in place to take care of things like this, and I wish them a speedy recovery. Also at some point on Saturday night the electricity went off in some sections of the camp site - again, that's a venue problem not an organiser problem. Don't get me wrong, there are a few things that the organisers can improve on, I'm not blindly defending them at all, but the public certainly need to take some sort of responsibility for things too.
So yeah, from my side VDub Camp Fest 2k16 was a great success. I had a great time with some great people. The judging was a long and tough process but at the same time it's good fun seeing all the cars up close and even better seeing the competitors' faces light up when they got on stage. I'd love to be involved again next year (hint-hint). SA car enthusiasts are continually raising their game and some cars could compete on an international stage. Congratulations to the winners of all the classes as well as the overall winners. Stanton Govender's Mk1 that took Best of Show really is an amazing car that ticked all the boxes, you can expect to see it in an upcoming issue of Performance VW Magazine ( I know this because I helped Jamie with the shoot - thanks to Yazeed HotLens for the use of his camera for this - mine was dead after shooting all weekend). The biggest winner on the weekend was most definitely Cecil Titus though who won the VR6 T5 - congrats man, I wish you many happy kilometers in your new ride.
I wanna thank VWCSA for having me there as part of their crew, Cum Laude events for putting together a wicked show, my fellow judges for all their hard work on the day and MC Vic Pardal for keeping things running smoothly (and promoting Chris Wall Media too). See you all again for Vdub Camp Fest 2k17!
There's a full album of pics on my Facebook page. Check it out, Like - Share - Tag - and give the page a like while you're there. I'm an avid collector of them.