CORDOVA, Ill. – Since 2008, FocusFest has been the annual gathering of choice for all things Ford Focus and Fiesta. Attendees have come to know that for 10 years and counting, Focus and Fiesta models from all generations have been welcome at this event, where no matter if it’s stock or modded, mild or wild – no car goes without appreciation at FocusFest.
So what does FocusFest entail? Well, the Ford hot-hatch celebration draws enthusiasts from all across the country to Cordova (Illinois) International Raceway for two days of all-Ford fun and frolic. Things kick off with a Friday night meet at the host hotel, located just across the Mississippi River in Davenport, Iowa, then switch over the raceway for an all-day main event on Saturday that includes plenty events to enjoy for both compacts and subcompacts alike.
This year’s FocusFest attendees were quick to set up a meet & greet in the parking lot of the host hotel, with a party atmosphere that resembled a modern-day rendition of scenes from the 1978 movie, Grease. Fellow owners of SVT, ZX4, ST, and RS models were all able to show off their cars, get up-close-and-personal with their projects and discuss their builds. Of course the night would not be complete without some cruising, so the group eventually began to roll out and hit the streets of the riverfront town of Davenport, Iowa, making some noise and turning some heads.
Then came the chance for owners to take full advantage of the key traits of these vehicles – handling – as the roads out of town quickly morph into a desolate corner-carving playground. The braided route along the Mississippi River is part of what makes the rural location of FocusFest so ideal; it is here where the fun factor of these cars really starts to shine through.
FocusFest 2018 was special for many reasons. First off, not only was this summer’s event commemorating the 10th anniversary of FocusFest, but it also marked the 20th anniversary of the Ford Focus itself. What’s more, the show set a record for participants, with some 450 attendees.
The Ford Focus has gone through several different iterations since its launch back in 1998, but the good news is that Focus enthusiasts have been embracing the evolution of the brand, and the diversity of the cars you’ll find at FocusFest is a perfect representation of that. We saw a full range of vehicles -- anywhere from a base-model stock Focus with over 300,000 miles on it, to a race-ready, big-turbo Focus ST putting down impressive quarter-mile times. This year, a total of 232 cars were officially judged by 25 volunteer FocusFest staffers, whose efforts truly helped make the show the success it was.
Even the latest addition to the Focus lineup, the 2018 Ford Focus RS Limited Edition, was found at FocusFest, with a few examples spotted across the grounds of Cordova International Raceway. Fans know that only 1,500 of the RS “LE” cars made their way to North America for 2018, with 1,000 of those destined for the U.S. and the remaining 500 sent to Canada. Ford Performance had invited a select few active forum members and FocusFest principals (some of whom had actually had input to the updates found on RS LE) to Salt Lake City, Utah, to witness the unveiling of the 2018 RS LE with Ken Block. (See: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Wz4ObDSQlo
Anyone who’s ever been to FocusFest knows that the real fun begins on show day, so once the clock hit 8 a.m. on Saturday, August 11, 2018, the gates to the track opened and officially kicked off a full day of high-octane hijinks. Participants signed up for various competitions, plus had full access to a drag strip where they were free to make passes all afternoon. FocusFest also includes an all-encompassing car show, an audio competition, an exhaust competition and, last but not least, a remote-control car autocross course.
By 11 a.m., the dragstrip was prepped and ready for front-tire shredding passes. Some drag racers were able to take full advantage of their experience on the strip, while others were first-timers just learning how to get the most out of their cars over the quarter-mile.
At 1 p.m. the exhaust competition had begun and participants lined up in pairs, each getting a chance to showcase their unique exhaust note while the crowd judged the winners with their cheers. Many of the entrants in this competition were modified Focus ST, Fiesta ST and Focus RS cars. A clear outsider among the hot hatches in the exhaust battle was a new Ford Mustang Shelby GT350. While this 5.2-liter cross-plane-crank V-8 might easily win an exhaust competition at any Mustang show, it wasn’t to be here at FocusFest. The GT350 was voted out in favor of a very mean-sounding Focus RS.
With so much going on, 1:30 p.m. had come quickly and the “focus” of the show had now shifted toward a sound much different than an automotive exhaust system. It was time for the audio competition, with sound systems in many of the show cars highly customized to produce powerful, high quality audio. Once again, the crowd was able to listen and decide with their applause which set up they favored in order to determine a winner.
All too soon, 4 p.m. had arrived and it was time to gather ‘round and give out the awards. As each winner came up they also received a well-deserved round of applause. Finally, the winning tickets for raffle items donated by more than 20 different sponsors and companies were drawn. Ford Performance had brought along full-color posters, ST/RS T-shirts, ST/RS hats, Ford Performance keychains, RS die-cast cars, and several other items as door prizes throughout the day. Our big giveaway prize for 2018 was a short-throw shifter for a Focus ST (M-7210-FST). As you might expect, the all-day party did not stop once the gates to FocusFest 2018 closed at 6 p.m. The group of participants cruised along the Mississippi River back to the host hotel for the FocusFest after-party.
Perhaps the biggest attraction for Ford compact and subcompact car fans is the fact that at this event, you’ll get to see almost every kind of customized Focus and Fiesta build, set-up, modification, and engine swap you can imagine right there on-site. No matter what kind of Blue Oval fan you are, you owe it to yourself to check out a FocusFest event and witness the kind of passion that the Focus, Fiesta, ST, RS and even older SVT’s bring out in an emerging group of Ford enthusiasts.
Ford Performance will keep following these kinds of young enthusiast events that are becoming ever more popular all over the country as we witness how the ST and RS brand appeals to a completely different kind of performance customer for Ford. Check out our previous coverage of FocusFest from 2017, 2016, 2015 and 2014 in the “Enthusiasts Newsroom” of FordPerformance.com, and come back to visit our Enthusiasts section often to keep up with all the action in the Ford club event world that you just won’t find anywhere else on the web!