SUMMERNATS, is an annual car festival held in Canberra, Australia since 1987. Summernats, which is usually held at the start of the year, is the best known car festival in Australia, and an event which attracts many tourists to Canberra, bringing in excess of $20 million in economic benefit to the ACT economy.
In the 1980s, Henry was involved with the Australian Street Machine Federation. In 1987, Henry built a dedicated burnout track at Exhibition Park in Canberra (EPIC, then known as Natex), and he held the first Summernats at the venue in January 1988. Thousands of attendees turned up at the event, which featured cars and entertainment from rock and bush bands, including hundreds for the first Summernats Street parade down Northbourne Avenue on 2 January. Henry told media that promotion costs amounted to around $500,000.
It has increasingly been promoted as an event for families. The Summernats spectator attendance record was set in 2017 with 119,184 attendees.
Summernats features many street machines with airbrushed artwork, and restored and modified cars. It is held over a four-day period, with many events, with prizes in competitions such as for burnouts, parades of cars around the track, fireworks at night and two outdoor concerts held on Friday and Saturday nights.
A crash at Summernats in 2006 injured a number of people (various sources indicating four, five or six).
Street cruises were stopped after the 2005 Summernats, following crowd control issues, however thanks to the support of the ACT Government and several years of exemplary crowd and entrant behaviour the City Cruise was re-introduced in 2014. The City Cruise is the first driving event at each Summernats and is limited to 300 entrant vehicles.
However Summernats spokesman Chic Henry was quoted as saying "The situation could be compared to so many other situations in life where people may have been having a bit too much fun, maybe having a bit too much alcohol."
After the 2009 event drew fewer attendees than expected, Henry entered negotiations with a possible buyer for the business. He confirmed the sale of the business to an undisclosed buyer in July 2009.
In 2019 tyre-frying enthusiasts set a new Guinness World Record for the largest simultaneous burnout.
Breaking the record (119) previously set in Saudi Arabia, 126 cars lit up their rear tyres at the annual event at the weekend, making for a spectacular display of noise and smoke.
Also in 2019, There was much outrage and conjecture on social media following an article published by the Canberra Times outlining an "urban renewal planning feasibility" being conducted by the ACT Government. The study concerns a parcel of land which includes Exhibition Park In Canberra (EPIC for short), which has been the home of Street Machine Summernats for over three decades.
Summernats 34 is scheduled for the 7th-10th of January 2021.