Tens of thousands of people flocked to Horsham over the weekend as they celebrated all things American.
The town centre and the park were filled with classic cars, bikes, food, and entertainment from across the pond on Sunday as the popular AmeriCARna made its grand return.
Visitors enjoyed a wide selection of American sports cars, motorbikes and pick-ups as well as music from the king of rock himself ‘Elvis’ whilst also helping to raise money for St Catherine’s Hospice.
Gordon Lindsay, Cabinet Member for the Local Economy, said: “Our American themed AmeriCARna event was an amazing celebration of all things American and it was wonderful to see so many people in Horsham town centre and the Park enjoying themselves.
“I am sure that many local businesses benefited from the increase in footfall of the event (double the usual numbers for a Sunday).
“Supporting local businesses and community groups is a major for the Council and seeing so many residents and visitors enjoying themselves put real meaning behind our pledge that time spent in Horsham is definitely ‘Time Well Spent’.”
Next year’s Horsham AmeriCARna is planned to take place on Sunday 29 September 2019.
The American School Bus provided by Southern Transit, (operators of the 3 route to Shoreham), arrived in the Carfax with Brighton based Sussex Thunder American Football team to the accompaniment of a Dixey Jazz band – The Sussex Stompers – themselves riding in on a 1925 REO Speedwagon owned by local business, Les Searle Group.
Outside The REC Rooms Bowling Alley there was a ‘paddock’ of NASCARS which included the iconic Petty #43 Plymouth Superbird better known as The King from the Cars Movie. This area was also home to a Peterbuilt truck and the School Bus ‘rideouts’ which did a roaring trade in raising money for St. Catherine’s Hospice.
In Horsham Park, American Car Clubs included, Oddballs, Surrey Mustang, Kent Breakfast Meet and the Corvette Club. The Motion Pictures Car Club presented an exciting range of film cars with everything from Del Trotter’s three wheeler to the Knight Rider and Bandit cars. Most popular of all and positioned in the Carfax was probably ECTO-1 - the Ghostbusters car which had been brought in by show sponsors, Dream Cars of Redhill.
Four motorbike businesses anchored a line up of owners’ Harley Davidson and Custom bikes in the park. Maidstone Harley Davidson and Slinfold’s P&D Custom Bikes sponsored best in show awards for their bike categories. Another Horsham District business, Pilgrim Motorsports of Small Dole sponsored the show and themselves presented an impressive display of classic Mustangs that set hearts racing at the entrance to the park.
Founder show supporter, Horsham Car Centre JEEP had put together a wonderful display of the latest and customised JEEPs alongside a posse of vintage military Jeeps from the Capel Military Show organisers.
Elsewhere in the park baseball demonstration matches, children’s rides, street foods and a stage in the Nature Garden kept families entertained. Nature Garden acts included Chelle Dean, Tayan Paxton, Urban City Dance, Tote Perello and Angel Delights.
In the REC Rooms activity zone below the bowling alley, Horsham Rotary hosted American slot cars racing while guest also enjoyed Seaboard Southern’s Railroad and STEAMcademy’s Mad Music machine. The REC Rooms stage presented performances from HAODS, Terra Nova, Mark Guile and Jayne Lang.
Both the Carfax and the Bishopric stalls attracted plenty of interest and were dressed for the occasion nestling between the town’s car displays. American Autoparts of Redhill presented the trophy for Best Custom or Hot Rod in show.
The Forum was home to a display of pick-up trucks and commercial vehicles with some stunning examples spanning all decades. Horsham Forge made trophies for two categories and presented the award for the Best Commercial in Show.
Classic cars abounded in both the Bishopric and the Carfax with awards being presented for both Best Cruiser (Founder sponsor Dream Cars of Redhill) and Classic Muscle Car (Sponsor, Pilgrim Motorsports).
Around 20 businesses chose to get involved and promote themselves through the event, receiving red, white and blue balloons from the council to highlight their involvement. These included Crates Local which held a Moonshine tasting, The Crown Pub which hosted drinks promotions, a prize raffle, kids’ activities and an evening quiz, American family owned Full of Beans in the Bishopric which presented a full American menu, and show sponsor Toy Barnhaus which offered a free collector’s edition Hot Wheels car with every purchase.
The contribution of these businesses will be recognised by the Horsham District Year of Culture 2019 team with their own ‘Spirit of Horsham AmeriCARna’ award to the business judged to have best presented their involvement. The winner to be announced next week.
The Bishopric’s Apache Menswear and Retroesque, combined to sponsor a Best American theme dressed selfies competition, and new business The Horsham Cellar presented a great selection of special American Wines, Spirits and beer to try as part of the Beer Trail organised in conjunction with Hepworth’s ‘Crazy Horse’ beer and East Street’s new Brewhouse & Kitchen.
A series of acts performed on the bandstand including Horsham Time Well Spent events sponsor, Christs Hospital with two musical theatre productions, Bugsy Malone and West Side Story. John Stapelton’s Rhythm & Blues Party, The Spinettes (sponsored by Retroesque) and Singergy also performed.
Following their barnstorming finale of last year, crowd favourites The Almost Elvis Band had been invited for a reprise. ‘Elvis’ was on top form working the bandstand arena with aplomb and even serenading a watching ‘puppy’ or two with his rendition of ‘Hound Dog’. The audience had to be the largest yet seen for an event of this type and could be seen singing and clapping along to all their favourite songs by the ‘King’.
As the band finished the town display cars started their ‘Cruise Out’ with the audience moving to the roadside to send them on their way. An amalgam of local vocal groups led by Singergy led a short sing-a-long tribute to the music from Grease – the movie being in its 40th year.
The final ‘Cruise Out’ saw cars and bikes from Horsham Park make their way round to exit through the Carfax. At the very end, a troop of American Police Cars and a bike in tandem with the car from Ghostbusters, all with sirens and loud hailers blasting, made a noisy but thrilling end to the day’s events.
The day’s music program was organised by Horsham District Council and local impresario, Jamie Stanley of Horsham Rocks. Display traffic management was by ETMS Highways and Blood Bikes charity SERV Sussex, and the event support was by MJ Events.