Stop saying “the new SOWO”. It’s not SOWO anymore. We’re not in Helen, Georgia. And, although the organizers of The European Experience were also responsible for Southern Worthersee, this is a new show in a new place, and it’s no accident that it’s the same weekend as SOWO has traditionally been. We’re in Savannah now, and this is The European Experience.
Now, before I get heckled about how I’ve continued to use the #sowo hashtag on our Instagram posts, despite SOWO ceasing to exist, I must admit that it’s because I, quite frankly, didn’t see any reason not too. At first, I didn’t see the #euex tag taking off very quickly, and my brain just can’t stop thinking “user experience” when I say “euex” aloud as I type it. In fact, the name “European Experience” is my biggest criticism of the new event, which says a lot about both the success of the event as a whole and how minor the things to complain were.
Before I get too far ahead of myself, it’s imperative to make one thing clear, if I haven’t already: The European Experience, in Savannah, Georgia, is not the “new” SOWO. While the organizers, particularly Matt Bounds, have perfected their show organization skills with SOWO over the years, growing into a company that is hosting and contributing to many events around the country, I feel like it’s given the general public a misconstrued expectation of Savannah’s new gathering.
Everyone that I see complaining about EUEX not living up to the SOWO hype is overlooking and disregarding the massive changes that have taken place over the past twelve months. Moving to a new city (which is significantly farther for the organizers to travel to, inspect, and have meetings), brings a whole plate of new issues, from finding a venue to getting local hotels and businesses onboard to collaborate for the show. And after nearly a decade of walking all over the city of Helen to see every corner of the event, I have to say, the EUEX venue totally kicks ass.
As expected, there were some growing pains surrounding the entrance to the show, long lines, and ticket scanning, but give the organizers and volunteers a break—there’s only so much that can be planned for in advance. While I think their underestimation of turnout might’ve been a bit naive, given the cult-like following that SOWO has developed, you can’t blame the organizers for fearing that the masses would insist on continuing to barge into Helen in 2016 as if SOWO 10 was actually taking place.
After spending Saturday and Sunday in Savannah and at EUEX, I can confidently say that the turnout, layout, and general production of the main event far surpassed Southern Worthersee in nearly every way. While there could’ve definitely been more toilets, concessions, and maybe a couple water misters around the super dusty entrance to the show fields, the ease of enjoying the car event was spectacular.
It was great to see a variety of new cars make their way out to Savannah as well, such as the great trio of Mercedes brought out by Bremen Autowerks (@bremenautowerks). All immaculately detailed and with their fitment games on-point, the Benzes were some of my favorites in attendance this year.
The most exciting part of the weekend for me, though, was debuting VW of America’s (@vw) new enthusiast builds, including the 2016 Passat R-Line on Vossen Forged LC-106T wheels (from my old GTI!). I had the opportunity to get Vossen (@vossen) and Accuair (@accuair) onboard to outfit the car with the necessary hardware, while Boden Autohaus (@boden_autohaus) did the install and wrap. Compared to the cars that VWoA has brought out to enthusiast events over the years, this one definitely wins my heart.
As much as I wish I could report that I didn’t encounter any douchebaggery throughout the weekend, though, there always has to be that one guy. From our experience, while things were winding down on the show field on Saturday, it was this guy. Pulling up across from where our group of friends was sat, he opened his doors and turned his stereo up to an ungodly level, instantly preventing anyone in the vicinity from having a conversation. When I asked him why he felt it necessary to do such a thing and he replied, “because I can”, I was saddened to know that, even in the first year of the event, there are already people there with general disregard for the masses’ comfort and interest. If this is you and you’re reading this, please learn some manners or stay in Texas next year.
All-in-all, The European Experience might just be my new favorite event. Sure, there might be some growing pains and figuring out to do, but the most important thing you need to remember is, this is the first year of the event, not the tenth. It’s unfair to judge the show itself, and general vibe of the town against Helen, because they’re not only totally different events, but different ages. In 8 more years, if The European Experience is still going strong in Savannah, I think SOWO might just be one of those things that the old timers reminisce about, like Waterwagens, while sitting around the pub in Savannah.
And don’t forget, if you want to treasure the good ole days of SOWO in Helen, we produced a limited edition coffee table book on the event.