Vespa World Days 2015 in Biograd and Zadar, Croatia

This year’s largest Vespa World Days 2015 was held in mid-June in Croatia, organized by the Vespa Club Croatia. Biograd na Moru and Zadar were occupied by the popular Vespa of all ages, colours and models from many parts of the world. The meeting of Vespa fans has been accompanied by a number of entertainment activities, concerts and tours and particularly attractive Vespa parade from Biograd to Zadar.

How did Croatia manage to run for hosting this world meeting and how did they deal with organization, revealed the president of the Vespa Club Croatia, Rafael Čuljak.

Q: How satisfied are you with this event? How many Vespa drivers and clubs were registered and how many visitors attended this event?

I find it hard to answer on how satisfied am I, because we are still gathering all impressions. There were mistakes, but I have to mention that professionals were not involved in the organization and the entire work except decorating Biograd and concerts was done within the club and volunteering members. I am pleased with the reactions of visitors which are sending us mails and thanking every day. Everybody is thrilled and our social network pages are literally “on fire” with positive comments. It will take a while to calm dawn our emotions and impressions and to understand what a great thing we did. As for registration, we have restricted the number of participants to 5.000 and there were still a lot of inquiries after filling this number. I suppose, a large number of unregistered participants showed up, but I don’t have enough experience to estimate the number.

Q: Vespa Club Croatia consist of ten Croatian Vespa clubs, and together you are members of Vespa World Club, whose president is Martin Stift one of the co-organizers of the Vespa World Days. What are his impressions of Croatia?

Martin couldn’t stop praising us during the entire meeting. I have to mention that this time, Vespa World Club had no obligations, which was a big surprise for them. Before the meeting and especially in recent months, we could feel doubt and fear of failure in their tone, precisely because we refused involvement of event agencies, which are usually hired for big events. We don’t blame them, since we already heard such suspicions before. Most of these suspicions were emphasized by presidents of major national clubs, while most apologized for all the mistrust they had expressed before the event. There are many emotions, which are difficult to explain. This is a world meeting, held only once a year and very important to all national clubs. The success or failure is reflected in next event. The must concerned was the president of the Vespa Club France, club which is next year organizing this meeting in St. Tropez. At the end, she jokingly said that she hates me because this will be difficult to repeat.

London meeting decided for Croatia to host the event

Q: How did you manage to bring such a large event to Croatia? Which conditions destination must meet to be accepted as a host and how long did the candidacy of Croatia lasted?

It was very difficult because we are one of the smaller clubs in the Vespa World Club. Although the size of the club is not one of the conditions, of course it affects the decision. Conditions are more related to the tourist experience of the host city, accommodation facilities, cultural and tourist attractiveness and connectivity with the brand Vespa, as well as the experience of the club in organizing big international meetings. Croatia was already nominated back in 2009 in Austria and despite lobbying and endless persuasions and presentations, we were not included in the nomination until in 2012. The meeting was then held in London and there were many problems because this megalomaniac city literally swallowed the event. The English organization was poor because they were not prepared for surprises. There were no plan B and this proved to be a very unwise decision. Two weeks before the meeting, they had to change the location and this has pushed the organization into the abyss. All was reflected in the thinking of other presidents, and we “pushed” the opinion that the meeting has to be held in a smaller city where it will be the main event. Then 2.500 Vespa participants in London were completely unnoticed. Once we found out, that our rival was a great city Milan, we assumed that this would be reflected in their candidacy. After our presentation, which most emphasized the beauty of our country and our general experience in the tourism and accommodation facilities, as well as the wishes of host city to accommodate us, was followed a long period of silence, and after that a huge applause. In the end, we won. A huge role in lobbying in London had Lovre Katalinić, former secretary of the Vespa Club Zadar, a man of exceptional social intelligence, which impressed all presidents before and after the presentation. I would stress that a large impact on getting candidacy had our annual national meeting – Crovespa, which has a great reputation. We are simply excellent hosts and our rival could only be someone who hasn’t already experienced our hospitality.

Q: How did you decide for Biograd to be the host of Vespa World Days?

We knew we needed strong support of the local club. Therefore, we asked all major Vespa Clubs in Croatia to nominate themselves. In the beginning of 2012, several Vespa Clubs, including the Vespa Club Zadar held presentations to the Council of Vespa Club Croatia. Biograd has organized HOG Days, meeting of the owner of Harley Davidson motorcycle, which helped Vespa Club Zadar. I have to mention, that city authorities at the time were not involved in the selection.

Details, which thrilled us

Q: Vespa World Days lasted 4 days, every day with different event. Apart from Biograd, the meeting was also held in Zadar for one day, with the exhibition of vintage Vespas in the church St. Donat. Can you tell us more about the supporting events, which attracted the visitors?

The basis of program was set long time ago in 1954 on the first meeting in Paris, and we could not change it a lot. We agreed to make maximum use of every part of the set program, but to add unexpected details that will surprise people. The members were carefully chosen, which led smaller groups of participants on tourist trips on Thursday and Friday. Part of them were selected because they had to be prepared for any questions, part were chosen because they were fantastic entertainers who know how to raise the atmosphere at all times, and here were also good mechanic in case of failures. They all had to know every detail of this trip, know how to slow down when needed and speed up because we did not want them wait in column in regular transport. Participants upon return often sang our songs and in once case even carried one member on their shoulders. This speaks of how successful were this trips.

Saturday’s ride was very important to all participants and the custom is that the convoy returns to the same place. We wanted to avoid this, so we asked the City of Zadar to help us. I must emphasize that everyone, including Mayor Božidar Kalmet were delighted on our proposal and told us that they would provide all the support and do whatever is required of them. They had great ideas about planning a gala dinner in the hall Višnjik and provided a beautiful church of St. Donat for the museum. It’s one of those added details, since the church itself is very attractive to visit. Icing on the cake was the experience of Biograd in organizing similar meetings, positive reactions of Mayor Ivan Knez and extensive work of Deputy Mayor Marijan Stopfer in organization of after party.

Financial structure – the biggest challenge

Q: The organization of such large event certainly had peculiar challenges. What’s been the most difficult and how many people participated in the preparation and organization of the event?

In the organization participated ten people in the board and about a hundred members with different tasks during the event. These are all people, who dedicated their professional and personal time to the success of the event, and I very much appreciate that. The biggest challenge was the closing of financial structure because we really had no experience in procurement and organization of such a large number of people. In organizing Committee, we agreed that the Club would continue to function well, only if we finish with a positive zero. We wanted to avoid unpleasant debate on the purpose of any remaining funds. It’s hard to end this major project with a positive zero, since there are unexpected costs around every corner. Furthermore, in our first calculations we though, that we would get significant discounts in purchasing T-shirts, bags, metal badges, key chains, stickers and everything that makes the standard welcome package for each participant. We did receive discounts, but not as much as we originally initiated. We were most surprised with a price of dinner, because we did not know that after a certain number of dinners, price per participants grows rapidly due to the necessary infrastructure. We are still finishing the calculations, but I can already say that we have succeeded in our intention. I would like to thank all hosts cities free public areas and facilities as well in covering certain costs generated by their desire to participants feel comfortable. I think they have succeeded in that, and that their assets have already returned. We also had two minor sponsors from the private sector. Welcome drink and Saturday package provided Atlantic Trade with Cockta, and VIPnet provided technique for registration.

Q: Do you also organize similar events for Croatian Vespa Clubs and if so, which are your favourite destinations in Croatia?

Each Vespa Club annually organizes a small meeting and one of the clubs our main international meeting – Crovespa. Favourite destinations are certainly those by the sea, because of the infrastructure and general kindness and help we get from the tourist offices. Five years ago, we organized Crovespa in Zagreb, and with all due respect, to my hometown, I think we will not go back anytime soon, although we received information that Zagreb Tourist Board is more open to this kind of tourism, so it certainly remains an open option.

The love for Vespas just happens

Q: How did you fell in love for Vespas? Which Vespa do you drive and which is the most interesting and most unusual experience you have experienced thanks to Vespa?

I really don’t know how it all started, but I can say that from my early age I knew that if I ever sit on a motorcycle, it will certainly be Vespa. If I knew the reasons, it would not be true love. It just happened, and is essential that this love lasts and increases daily. I drive five different Vespa models, and I each love and appreciate very much. I like to see one of the oldest models of the late 40’ or 50’ of the last century, but prefer the period of the 60’. The reason is purely practical. I love to ride Vespa on long distances, and I want them to be in the technical sense at least approximately aligned with my current needs, which are primarily safety and sufficient cruising speed. Vespa which I was driving on World days was manufactured in 1964 and goes satisfactory 90 km /h, which allows me to go fast enough to where I want and I don’t cause a traffic jam.

Most of my experiences with Vespa are positive. One negative is when my rear tire blowout in the tunnel beneath Graz, on my way to Belgium. I think I broke all speed record in changing tire where buzzing cars a couple of inches from my back accompanied me. Every new journey brings new challenges, but also a great amount of satisfaction. Those who were in Biograd could feel the positive energy of Vespa meeting. This keeps us motivated for doing what we do.

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