Growing Pains: H2Oi Delayed Till 2018

Everyone in the car scene and their grandmother has most likely heard of what is deemed “America’s most ticketed car show;” H2Oi. With the cancellation of the event for 2017, we here at Firing Order decided to take a look into the reasons why, and how those could possibly be changed. What started out over a decade ago as a VW and Audi show and cruise has turned into a wild weekend of automotive asshattery. When the show first started, it was (and still is) a tightly run event, intended to showcase the very best of the Euro scene on the East Coast. When I say “and still is” I’m referring to the fact that the show itself is not where all of the craziness ensues, but rather on the highways in and around Ocean City. Very few car shows get to the size of people coming from all over the country to attend without some sort of issues. The SEMA show is an incredible event, but I personally watched enthusiasts receive tickets, usually from laughing officers, over their burnouts on the cruise out of the venu. The actual H2Oi show is held at Ft. Whaley Campground, outside of the city. Ocean City just happens to be closest to the venue, and therefore hosts enthusiasts from all over the country during the weekend event. The Maryland coast only adds a beautiful backdrop to feature some absolutely incredible builds, and some insanely silly modifications.

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With the origins of the show being VW and Audi, it is obvious that “stance” would be a contributing factor to both the positive, and negative side of the show. While the airbagged cars have no problem passing a police checkup, the guys n’ gals riding on chopped springs and missing bumpers are obvious targets to be hit with a hefty fine, and even impoundment of their vehicles.  A look at the lineup of trophies and awards for the show gives us an insight in what to expect. Classes for each trophy include a “Stock”, “Mild”, and “Wild” class, meaning you’re sure to see everything from manufacturers engineering to some serious hardparking.. As the shows popularity grew in entrants, it also gained a lot of attention from enthusiasts outside of the Euro bubble. There are seriously incredible cars rolling through Ocean City during the weekend, and they aren’t just VW’s. The stance bug, or virus as it's been referred to, has spread outside of the Euro crew and infected seemingly everyone from guys in dumped Honda’s with cut springs and custom camber plates, to bagged Ferrari’s with incredible fitment.  Stance has come a long way in the last few years, and has gone from being something that looked, felt, and honestly sounded uncomfortable; to being an expression of class and elegance.  Expanding past tight fitment and clean lines,  into all aspects of the vehicle; including wire tucked engine bays, and flawless interiors with minimalist accents while keeping the clean lines included by the manufacturer.

Having a beautiful backdrop and some of the best (and worst) built vehicles from all over North America seems like the perfect recipe for a weekend of automotive obsession, so what really went wrong. In recent years, ticket numbers have gone from a few hundred into the thousands, with nearly 2000 tickets handed out at last year’s event. Over 2000 calls were made to enforcement agencies in 2016, and frustrations from locals, and officers has led to a vast increase in the type of ticketed infractions. I should mention that Ocean City is a relatively small city, with a population of somewhere between 7-9 thousand, so while these numbers may seem small, in proportion to the population, they are massive. There are those who see new laws relating to the road safety act in the state as easy ways for police to nab a few extra dollars and pull a few extra cars off the road; but are they? Window banners, and excessive stickers are now called an obstruction in the driver's view, and yield a penalty, but if you physically cannot see out your windows can that vehicle really be called safe? Either way, stickers are not the biggest issue in recent years. Social media may have a substantial part to play in the complications with the weekend, as some event goers are doing their absolute best to catch their 15 minutes of Instagram fame by posting photos of their vehicle being towed away and videos of burnouts and skids are top results in searches of the hashtag H2Oi. With all the automotive related problems, there are still issues like excessive garbage, drinking, and fighting. All put together it adds an excess amount of stress on law enforcement which consists of both full time OCPD officers, and volunteers.

The 2017 event has officially been cancelled by the event organizers, and is stated to be due to changes in venue options as the event continues to grow. With a short timeline to put the rest of the bits together, organizers have called it a delay until next year, instead of a cancellation. It’s important to remember that it’s a lot of work to put together a Cars n’ Coffee, let alone a show of such epic, and massive proportions. I wouldn’t be surprised to see die hard’s still showing up and turning Ocean City into a real life Need for Speed Underground 2, focusing more on meets and unsanctioned events instead of one properly organized show. While some see the cost of impoundment and infractions as the cost to attend the show, it would be incredible to see the car community band together and create an event that is catered more towards the general public instead of just the gearheads. That’s what race tracks are for aren’t they? In any case, as an enthusiast, H2Oi is an event that I hope to add to my calendar in years to come; and I look very forward to doing so.

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Opinion, EventShane O'leary