Ever since SoWo was kicked out of Helen, GA last year, people were skeptical that another show could take its place. I’d say The European Experience silenced some skeptics and started right where SoWo left off just nicely.
Now, for those who don’t know, SoWo, or Southern Worthersee, was a Volkswagen-focused European car show held in Helen, Georgia from 2007-2015. It was modeled after the Worthersee car festival in Reifnitz, Austria. Helen is modeled after Alpine towns in Europe, and the area of Georgia it’s in looks similar to the area of Austria that Worthersee is in. In 2015, it drew around 23,000 attendees.
Sadly though, when you get that many people together in one small town, normally populated with only 500 people, things can get a bit crazy. In 2014, the warning signs started to show. Towards the end of the event weekend, things degraded a bit, and there were a bit too many burnouts and drunk idiots. The Helen police had their hands full, to say the least. Despite the issues in 2014, the city still approved the show for the next year hoping that the incident would be a one-time occurrence.
Well, they misjudged that one.
In 2015, the show started off fine once again. All 23,000 people were having a wonderful time with their Euros, but the peace and fun didn’t last long. Things soon escalated well past the problems encountered in 2014. The crowd mentality took over, everyone started laying rubber anywhere they could, and crowds were blocking the streets and the cops. There’s only one way in, and one way out of Helen, and that means any police that needed to come in to break up the crowds couldn’t even make it into town; they were blocked by traffic and people just being stupid. Things were lit on fire, riots almost started. The crowd tried to flip a tow truck that got caught up in the mess. That was the final straw. Once the carnage was over, Helen voted “No” on SoWo returning.
So, SoWo’s event planner needed to come up with a new venue. He saw Savannah as a good choice. While not as intimate or scenically similar to Helen, Savannah is a large enough town that it certainly has the means of keeping everyone under control if need be. This new event would be called SoWo Presents: The European Experience, and the show itself was to be held on Hutchinson Island, right across from Savannah.
I never made it SoWo, and despite the better planning and police force available, I wasn’t sure how long EuroEx was going to last. I wasn’t going to miss my chance this year, so I lined up some friends and we made plans to head down.
We left for Savannah on a beautiful Friday morning at 7am. After nine hours of travel, our little convoy hit the hotel, dropped off our gear and headed straight into town. On Bay and River Street we saw our first signs of the show. A convoy of absolutely slammed Euros were trying their best to make it down the rough cobblestone road without breaking their backs or bending a wheel. After the shenanigans of the evening, a few local car meets were taken over by the Euros.
Saturday was the first day of the show, and I was excited to get moving. After I woke up I met up with some Mk7 guys I had met Friday, and we all rolled in together. The lines were massive, and it was two hours before we were in and parked. At some points we were all just sitting around outside our cars while the line was stopped. It was crazy.
One thing became instantly clear; if you are about that “low life,” EuroEc is your kind of show. Slammed Volkswagens, Audis, and BMWs everywhere, along with the occasional Volvo. Everything was slammed. I mean everything.
There was quite a large vendor presence, everyone from APR to BBS to Volkswagen themselves. Bags vs coils played out all across the tarmac. The show lasted until 4, when everyone got kicked out. After the show, there were more meets, just like Friday, and I heard even 1320 video showed up to film some street racing. Thankfully, there appeared to very few problems that resulted from the crowds or YouTube hooligans.
Sunday was much of the same, just a sea of slammed European metal, but the crowds were smaller. Most people had left already, trying to beat traffic and get home before Monday demanded a return to mundane and monotonous work lives. After the show Sunday, a friend and I decided to take advantage of the scenery, lighting and lack of traffic to have a quick photo shoot. Savannah makes for a stunning backdrop, but I’ll just let the photos speak for themselves.
All in all, it seems that the first EuroEx was certainly a success. The attendance was officially recorded at 15,000 people, a solid accomplishment for a show that is technically a first year event. That number gets even more impressive when you consider the baggage from SoWo.
As for me, I had an incredible time, and there is no way I’m going to miss next year’s show event.
If you happened to make it to the event, be sure to drop us a comment to tell us about your favorite moments and cars from the events. Share some photos if you have those too. If you didn’t make it down, you can live vicariously through us. Just hit that gallery below to see more than a hundred photos from the event. Hopefully you can meet up with the AutoTalk crew next year. We’d love to have you.
Written by: Justin Davis