For four days last September, a patch of barren sand in the middle of the Mojave Desert, California came to life with hellish visions of a post apocalyptic world. The annual Wasteland Weekend Festival draws thousands of visitors into a fully immersive ‘Mad Max-esque’ experience. It’s 4 days of bungee battles, fire performance, cosplay, live music and post apocalyptic films.
In 2010, Wasteland had its first year, drawing just a couple of hundred die hard Mad Max fans. In 2016, Wasteland’s 7th year, the festival drew its largest crowd yet, pulling in over 2,500 ‘apocalypse survivors.’ Jared Butler, Wasteland’s founder and director, explains: “We accidentally gave birth to a very strong, vibrant and growing creative subculture. We certainly didn’t cause it but we gave it a purpose and a gathering place.”
At Wasteland, costumes are mandatory. The experience is totally immersive. No gawkers are allowed and all participants must remain in character over the four days. ‘Survivors’ also bring their specially modified, post apocalyptic vehicles.
Cars and motorcycles that look like they are straight out of a Mad Max film tear through the dust and heat. People covered in sweat and sand separate into themed tribes, with names like Skulduggery and Vermin Vagabonds. It’s an event that attendees plan and prepare for all year long.
In 2016, guests included Vernon Wells, who played Wez in Mad Max 2, and Greg van Borssum, who was Ripsaw Imperator, principal fight choreographer and weapons advisor for Mad Max: Fury Road. “It was our best event ever by far” says Butler. “This is the first time we sold out in advance of the event.”
As the event continues to grow in popularity, so do the goals of its organizers. In the future, they hope to take Wasteland not only to other sites across the US, but also to the UK, and the original home of Mad Max, Australia.