Meet The Locals: Peter Melenewycz From Beachfest

May 16, 2024

Peter Melenewycz is State Director of the Australian Street Rod Federation.

The group of enthusiasts organises Beachfest, an annual celebration of hot rod, custom and classic motor vehicles in Caloundra.

Once a year, the streets of Caloundra are taken over by Beachfest, a retro car festival celebrating hot rod, custom, and classic motor vehicles.

The festival, which attracts locals and tourists alike, provides five days of cruising and sharing the roads with some of the best cars in Australia.

Ryno Insurance Downunder Beachfest 2024 runs from 29 May to 2 June.

We speak to Peter Melenewycz, State Director of the Queensland branch of the Australian Street Rod Federation, which organises the festival.

So Peter, tell us a little about Beachfest?

Ryno Insurance Downunder Beachfest 2024 is an annual event that celebrates hot rod, custom and classic motor vehicles, as well as the rock ‘n roll lifestyle. It’s held annually on the Sunshine Coast and runs over five days – this year from 29 May to 2 June.

There are a variety of activities on offer, including cruises through the Sunshine Coast – often passing some of its many attractions – as well as entertainment, dancing, car displays, dinners, and more.

The event supports local business and raises funds for a registered charity. Over the weekend we have the cars on show, plus on Saturday we have five bands, as well as traders selling food, memorabilia and merchandise and other things.

Beachfest has been running for around 10 years and there is a similar event down South at the Gold Coast called Cooly Rocks On. In the past, both events ran over the same weekend, but there was controversy because people in the car community wanted to be able to attend both events.

This year, we moved Beachfest a week earlier so we could entertain the car community here in the North and then head down South to Cooly Rocks On. We’ve had a tremendous response from entrants, and people from all over the country are interested because now they can come to both. Some people are booking their holidays around it.

So Peter, what’s your role in Beachfest?

Beachfest is organised by the Australian Street Rod Federation (ASRF) Queensland division. I’m the State Director of the QLD ASRF, so I help organise the event, alongside the other committee members including Kayleen Maguire, who is ASRF Treasurer, and Mark Webb, who is ASRF secretary. The remarkable thing is that Beachfest is a 100% volunteer-run event.

So what exactly is a street rod? And what else does the ASRF do?

The definition of a Street Rod or Hot Rod is a pre-1949 vehicle – but we encourage members with any year vehicle.

The Australian Street Rod Foundation was created in about 1968 and formally registered in South Australia in the early 1970s (the exact year is a bit disputed). It’s recently become a limited company, to bring it in line with modern-day business requirements.

We have 13,000 members throughout Australia, and each state has a state director and council who communicate with or lobby the various state governments on legislation for modified vehicles. We facilitate concessional registration for any vehicle in excess of 30 years old. Concessional rego means it’s a lot cheaper, and you can also get a reduction on your insurance, but you are limited in what you can use the car for. It’s not for work or regular daily use or the school run. It’s a recreational vehicle.

What type of cars can we see at Beachfest?

You’ll see Holden Monaros, panel vans, VWs, and any form of classic vehicle. For Beachfest, we have limited the car year to pre-1985. That takes us up to the very first Commodores or early model Falcons.

One entrant is bringing a car over from New Zealand, which they have built that will debut at Beachfest. Then, it will do the Australian show car circuit. Another entrant has a group of EH Holdens – sedan, station wagon, panel van and ute – all the same colour, and he’s bringing them to Beachfest too.

What do you love about these types of vehicles? What cars do you own?

My first car was a FJ Holden. I own a 1956 Ford F100 and a 1934 Ford pickup that’s been handmade out of aluminium. All you need to do is fill them up with petrol – there is no computer in them or power steering or air conditioning. It’s how things used to be.

What is it about Caloundra that makes it so good for Beachfest? And what does Beachfest bring to Caloundra?

I think it’s the atmosphere and the location, with the beach and all the cafes. We quite literally close the main street and line the streets with the cars – it’s an electrifying atmosphere. We’ve also been using the amphitheatre at Kings Beach.

The Sunshine Coast Council recognises Beachfest is a money spinner for tourism. We have been told it brings in excess of $5 million to the local community.

There are a lot of people who travel here for it, so hotels and motels book out, restaurants and cafes do more business. We receive a huge amount of support from restaurants, hotels, motels, shops, as they realise they will get people passing through – we’ve had great support from everyone and have many wonderful sponsors. It’s been brilliant.

Which charities are you raising funds for?

In 2023, we raised $10,000 for juvenile diabetes, which was donated to Brisbane Children’s Hospital. This year, we’re supporting the Westpac Care Flight Helicopter. On Sunday, it will be a memorial day in memory of Aden Jacobi, who was our artist for Beachfest and passed away suddenly. We’ve asked all the entrants to pay $10, which will go to the Heart Foundation. Aiden designed the artwork we are using this year. Some of it is incomplete, but we’ve chosen to use it as he left it.

This year, we have about 600 entrants and we’re expecting 300-400 for the Sunday competition. Everyone is welcome to come on down and see the immaculately presented cars! We are hoping to raise $6,000 for the Westpac Care Flight Helicopter and around $3,000 for the Heart Foundation.

What does Beachfest mean to you?

I’ve found that it’s the sort of thing that can easily become your way of life. We prepare full-time five- to six-months out from Beachfest, and as it gets closer, there is more and more to do. On the days of Beachfest itself, we don’t get to spend too much time enjoying it as we are busy making sure it’s all running well. But to sit back afterwards and see the smiles, all the people and how it was received is absolutely wonderful.

Thanks for the chat, Peter, and for all the hard work that goes into putting on such a great event for our local community! Beachfest runs in Caloundra from 29 May to 2 June 2024. You can find out more on the website or at Facebook. And you can find out more about the Australian Street Rod Federation at their website.

Caloundra City Realty

Article by Caloundra City Realty

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