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Miss Summernats pageant cancelled as Canberra car festival tries to clean up its image

Katie Burgess

Published: December 7 2017 - 4:20PM

Summernats has canned its 2018 Miss Summernats competition as it attempts to crack down on sexual harassment at the annual car show.

More than 100,000 motorsports fans are expected to descend on Canberra's Exhibition Park on January 4 for the 31st Summernats car festival.

But co-owner Andy Lopez said the yearly beauty pageant would not be returning.

"Our focus is to get women in as a particular demographic and we want women to feel safe and comfortable as they generally do at the Summernats and to encourage their participation both from a spectator point of view but also into the sport or the scene itself of car building," Mr Lopez said.

"That's been a really important task of ours and part of that has been to let the Miss Summernats competition go.

"It was a great event and a nice part of the event for its time but we've all moved on and we'd rather focus the resources we might put into that into developing other, more inclusive aspects to the event so that's something we're actually really happy with and we feel like the response to that has been quite good."

Feminist blogger Clementine Ford wrote that while "Australia's biggest horsepower party" had ditched the wet T-shirt competitions and nude shows, "a predatory vibe still infects certain parts of the event".

Mr Lopez said he wanted to address the "perception" that kind of behaviour was acceptable.

Those who buy tickets to this year's have to tick a box declaring they will not harass other patrons and security has been beefed up to eject anyone who doesn't adhere to their strict no-tolerance policy, Mr Lopez said.

"This scene is about families and it's about husbands, wives, kids, boyfriends, girlfriends all doing things together in the modified car scene so it's really important we look after all of our people," Mr Lopez said.

"That's what we've got to do. There has been this perception of 'if you're a girl you shouldn't go down Tuff Street'. Of course you should be able to go down Tuff Street at any time of day because you feel safe and secure. We're trying to do this through education, pre-event messaging and actual intervention on site. It's a real focus for us."

The last festival was also marred by the death of 30-year-old Queensland man Luke Newsome, who died after falling off the back of a ute.

Mr Lopez confirmed patrons would not be permitted to ride on ute trays again this year.

The ACT government has signed a three-year deal with Summernats for it to remain in Canberra, and will provide the event with $200,000 a year.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr said there had been a "significant change in direction" for the event since Mr Lopez and his colleagues took the helm.

"Let's be fair if we're going to grow the event you can't make 50 per cent of the population feel like they're excluded from participation so I think there are very important values questions at play here where there's been leadership and change," Mr Barr said.

Summernats brings about $25 million to the ACT economy in what is traditionally a slow period for Canberra tourism.

Asked if the government would withdraw its support if the event failed to live up to community expectations, Mr Barr said it was "unfair" to single out Summernats.

"I don't get asked that question about most other events so let's call a spade a spade here, I think it's a little unfair to target this event in that way," Mr Barr said.

"There are KPIs for all partners for the major event fund and we hold all partners accountable for those KPIs.

"I know for its ongoing success that it's pretty fundamental [the event be safe] but I would make the same observation about any other event held in the city.

"I do note I don't get asked that question about events at the National Gallery [which gets $500,000 from the major events fund].

"Some people were confronted by some of the full frontal nudity in the Hyper Real exhibition we've supported. I note I've never been asked a question about that."

Summernats 2018 is on from January 4 to 7 at Exhibition Park in Canberra. For tickets, head to summernats.com.au.

This story was found at: http://www.canberratimes.com.au/act-news/miss-summernats-cancelled-as-canberra-car-festival-tries-to-clean-up-its-image-20171207-h00fit.html