Beach Hop 2017 declared a ‘huge success’ after big weekend
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Auckland man Graham Bailey, a self-confessed petrolhead who has owned more than 100 cars in his lifetime, went home on Sunday a very happy man - and with another car to add to his stable.
Mr Bailey, who spends six months of every year in Whangamata, is the proud new owner of the 2017 Beach Hop Limited Edition Mustang GT [pictured below] after his name was drawn from the thousands of hopefuls who put entries into the bin at the Ford Reserve (Williamson Park).
He said he was "very surprised but very happy" to have his entry selected.
"I was in with a chance just like everyone else," Mr Bailey said.
He got his first car - a Ford 8 - when he was 15 but his favourite is a Bugatti Veyron, an Italian vehicle.
He has attended every Beach Hop since it began and has entered the prize draw each year.
Prizes for the various competitions were handed over on Sunday at the close of the Hop just after midday, after which there was a mass exodus from Whangamata and life returned to normal for the permanent residents.
Mr Beach Hop himself, Noddy Watts, described Repco Beach Hop 17 "hugely successful".
"It's probably the smoothest running hop we've had - everything went like clockwork.
"The trip to Whitianga was sensational - they gave us a huge welcome. We will consider repeating that next year.
"As for the Ford reserve on Saturday, everyone who came up on stage said the crowd was the biggest they've ever seen."
He said he had not heard of any trouble in town as experienced in previous years.
"The behaviour of people was great, the bands were world class, and our two American guests, Chuck and Gene, said there was nothing like this in the United States. They were amazed."
Everyone got into the spirit of Beach Hop's rock n roll theme. Photo / Lesley Staniland
The rain stayed away, everyone was happy and there to enjoy themselves, and there was little trouble reported to the police.
Apart from a light drizzle at one stage, the rain waited until almost 1pm yesterday to give everyone the chance to enjoy the final moments.
The Elvis caravan was auctioned and went to a keen fan for $19,500.
Thousands of participants and spectators, in vehicles worth many millions of dollars collectively, poured into Whangamata over the past week for the annual event, boosting the permanent population of about 3500 to an estimated 110,000-plus.
Wednesday is always the official start day for each Beach Hop but many cars and their occupants arrive early and begin the "night cruise" which sees spectators in their thousands line the roads.
The Go Waihi Warm Up Party attracted more than 200 entrants with lots more enthusiasts joining them in Waihi.
Thursday was different this year, with a cruise to Tairua being extended to include Whitianga where the cars and their occupants received a warm welcome.
A drone photo shows cars lined up at Waihi Beach. Photo / Kit Wilson
Friday saw the Thunder Cruise to Onemana - a popular event where the cars visit the small seaside town about 10km north of Whangamata and park up for a few hours overlooking the ocean so participants can enjoy music and admire the mix of vehicles. Locals can talk to the owners who have spent hours - and sometimes years - building their dream machines.
This year, unofficial "vehicle recorder" Jim Lee, using a little click counter machine, notched up 603 cars heading for Onemana - and they were just the official entrants. All around Onemana, there would have been twice that number parked up on properties or on roadsides.
People with tents, gazebos and barbecues lined the road all the way to Onemana, just to be a part of this huge event.
The Beach Hop Idol contest was this year won by 22-year-old Whangamata crooner Kristin Dillon whose Frank Sinatra sound won the crowd over.
Many who attended Beach Hop this year have re-booked accommodation for Beach Hop 18 — from March 21 to 25, 2018.
- Lesley Staniland, Bay of Plenty Times