~ Chris #16 Demaras ~

When I was a teenager, we’d always go to Wasaga on the Labour Day long weekend. Me and my friends would pile into a car, drop a house speaker in the trunk and splice into the factory 6×9 of whatever hunk-of-junk we were driving. We didn’t understand watts / volts / ohms and didn’t care about sound quality. We just wanted to cruise the strip, booming LL Cool J, and rattling our windows. It was harmless fun.

Those long weekends were very much unscripted. There was no organizer, no car show, no admission fee. Just a bunch of like-minded kids driving without destination. It very much reminded me of the cruising immortalized in movies like American Graffiti.

But now, people my age who used to cruise Wasaga back in the day, are on city council or in the mayor’s office, and are preventing the next generation from enjoying the same fun.

This weekend’s OPP enforcement at Wasaga Beach was shameful; a complete overreaction to some very negative but isolated incidents last year. This weekend, police pulled over any modified car and slapped them with thousands of dollars of fines, or even impounded people’s rides. This wasn’t an abuse of power. Wasaga officials had already filed for an emergency injunction providing the OPP with enhanced powers to prevent H20i from rolling into their sleepy town again. But was such a restriction on personal freedoms justifiable?

Part of me thinks that if I was a teenager now, I’d be part of the H20i car scene, which seems like a modern version of those wonderful Wasaga weekends of my youth. But when I look at the images from last year (not just H20i in Wasaga, but even in Ocean City, New Jersey) I realize that the H20i guys just don’t help themselves!

Social media allows the message about events like H20I to spread wide, and that means it’s not just meet-up at the Tim’s parking lot. When a gathering gets this big, there are some basics which have to be established.

  • The participants have a right to peacefully enjoy the event, without fear of harassment.
  • The community has a right to be safe from a street take-over or stunt driving.

Event organizers should have sought a ‘sanctioned’ space for the car rally. A big, empty parking lot where all the cars could meet up after cruising the beach. Plenty of parking, a row of porta-potties, and a space for burnouts.

Instead of seeking court injunctions and turning the beach into a police state Wasaga officials should have welcomed those thousands of young motorists to their town. All those kids need to eat and drink and they’ve got cash money with them. It’s what every tourism dependent town needs!

What this all comes down to is intolerance. Each party showed complete disrespect for the other, and that’s why H20i got shut down before it even started this year.

Even a guy like me with a wife and kids was afraid to go anywhere near Wasaga in my SVX or Miata for fear of being profiled and pulled over. I’m not a soccer hooligan; just a freedom-loving car guy who wanted to cruise the strip with my family.

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