Wasteland Weekend 2011
A Look Back
We want to begin by saying THANK YOU. Wasteland Weekend is a volunteer-driven event, and this event could not have happened without the enormous energy, effort and sacrifice of all of our volunteers (including our senior staff and performers who are also volunteers). And the event could not have been as memorable and exciting as it was without the creative contributions of our many enthusiastic tribe members and other attendees.
Our 2011 event was a huge success. We nearly doubled our attendance from the previous year, and the overall look and feel of the event took another big step toward our dream of a fully-immersive post-apocalyptic experience.
With any event of this type, especially one with a budget as tight as ours, there will always be hurdles to overcome, and we certainly had our share. But ultimately, the fauxpocalypse ™ could not be stopped, and we all had a hell of a good time.
The event planning began months in advance, with strategizing and coordinating, recruitment of amazing (and slightly mentally deranged) participants, build days in Hesperia, promotion at conventions and clubs, and online social networking.
When September finally arrived, our build crew hit the empty Mojave desert and began to transform it into the Wasteland Compound.
The tribes (a new initiative this year, and a very successful one) began to arrive early, and their camp sites, towers, market stalls, thunderdomes and jugger fields began to fill in the interior of the compound.
The tribes of WW2011 were such a big part of the event that they will probably be the subject of their own, more detailed blog post at a later time, but suffice it to say that we will be continuing and expanding the tribe aspect of WW in the future.
Arriving attendees were guided by “WW” signs across the desert roads, leading them to the check-in station (guarded by a menacing multi-barreled flame cannon in the back of an armored pickup truck).
By Friday afternoon the compound had filled in, and the masses gathering in the general camping area outside the Wasteland Gates (new this year) were growing restless.
Our Captain of the Elite Guard (another new concept this year) gave the order “Open the gates!” – and the great rusted steal doors parted.
As attendees surveyed the 360-degree post-apocalyptic compound, the theme from Bartertown played from the main stage sound system. Tribal leaders stood proudly at the gates of their little enclaves welcoming the curious. Bartertown merchants hawked their wares. Thunderdome combatants practiced, getting ready for the first match.
The ApocaLIPS tribe of Amazon women gave us our first diversion, with the coronation of their queen along with an auction of male slaves (one of which had the misfortune of being auctioned to the tribe of Wasteland Cannibals).
An approaching storm caused the music and generators to be temporarily shut down as a precaution, and the Elite Guards to climb down from their towers, but the lightning show and desert sunset that followed made up for it. And we were spared the rain that passed nearby.
As an authentic Australian replica of Mad Max’s car, the black-on-black Pursuit Special aka the last of the V8 Interceptors, came roaring through the main gates, the opening ceremonies began.
Fire performers Celsius lit up for the crowd as the V8 Interceptor parked in front of the main stage and revved its engine. The first DJ began spinning music and the Atomic Cafe and Wasteland Casino opened for business.
The first Thunderdome match began Friday evening to the chants of “Two men enter, one man leaves!”. The Carnival Of Destruction crew put on Thunderdome matches all weekend, and while the dome itself may have been small (there are plans for a bigger dome in the future) the matches themselves were larger than life – complete with Peckinpah-sized blood splatters (woe to those front-row patrons standing in the “splash zones”.)
As the night rolled on, more DJs stepped up to spin, the Beckys and the Grind Queens lit up the night with fire breathing and showers of sparks, and Brazen Booties Burlesque put on some wasteland-themed dance numbers. On top of all of that, the Lord Humungus himself drove up to the Wasteland Gates and gave a threatening speech to the crowd (thanks Tank!).
The Wasteland Games took place on Saturday morning, just outside the bounds of the compound. There was an archery contest featuring all manner of arrow-flinging weapons (cross bows, compound bows, standard recurve bows, etc.) all overseen by an experienced range master. In addition to shooting arrows, contestants could use a giant sling shot to expel irradiated vermin from the camp in the “rad roach launch” (one of many nods to the popular Fallout video game series throughout the event). Things got back to Mad Max territory with the boomerang toss (the winner of which won a beautiful hand-made metal boomerang courtesy of Dark’s Emporium), and a Dinki-Di dogfood eating contest, an event about which it could be said that there were truly no winners. The Wasteland Games had become a bit like an apocalyptic company picnic by the time of the “grenade toss”, which featured pairs of contestants tossing grenade-styled water balloons back and forth at increasing distances. Finally, the gas can carry reenacted one of the scenes from the Road Warrior as a few determined men (and one woman) hoofed it across the dust carrying big jerry cans on a pole across their backs. Trinkets were awarded to the winners of all the contests, and the losers were subjected to ridicule by our contest MCs Jack Dagger and Mr. Dark.
Back inside the compound, mohawks were given by our wasteland barbers to a long line of willing volunteers and body paint was sprayed on at the Wasteland Beauty Parlor (a concept we plan to expand on for future events, making it a one-stop shop to get wasteland haircuts, body paint, appropriately dirtied up, and even kitted out via a costume swap pile of donated items).
The Casino did a brisk business all weekend, run by Boss Cap, Big Disco and the rest of their crew. Players enjoyed various games of chance and won special bottle caps which could be redeemed for wasteland-themed prizes at the end of the event.
The Casino crew weren’t the only ones doing a brisk business, so were our staff of medical volunteers. An unfortunate and unexpected heatwave hit that weekend, causing temperatures to be hotter than they normally would be that time of year. And while everyone made the best of it, many folks needed some TLC from our great EMTs before it was all over.
One way to beat the heat was the impromptu wet T-shirt contest put on by the women of the Wasteland Brothel. Others simply tried to stay shaded and hydrated. In hindsight, the brothel women probably had the best strategy.
As the temperature eased (a little), the Juggers hit the field for the post-apocalyptic sporting event that consists of two teams beating the hell out of each other while trying to post a dog skull onto a spike. The entire Jugger organization really stepped it up this year, having done extensive training and recruitment in the off season. Everyone seemed to agree that the matches were even more fast-paced and aggressive this year. In addition, the roster of players had expanded to include a third team.
At halftime, we had a special knife throwing show put on by the world-renowned Jack Dagger.
During the second Jugger match, we had one of our scarier moments of the weekend when one of the players went down with what appeared to be a very serious injury. Play was stopped for the day, and the team leading at that stage of the game was declared the winner by default. Thankfully, the injured player was able to make a full recovery by later in the day and stayed to enjoy the rest of the event.
As the sun began to set, the second of two large group photo gatherings took place, followed by the costume contest (and one need only scan the photos of the winners to see just how high the bar has been raised for this aspect of the event). (Note: Full post about the costume contest coming soon, with photos.)
Saturday night brought more performances by our great WW2011 entertainers, including a live set by the band Dead Hand Projekt (DHP).
By Sunday morning, it was time for those with long drives (such as all the way back to Arizona, Colorado, and Canada) to begin packing for the journey. Our resident wasteland preacher Brother Justify did his traditional Sunday morning sermon, undeterred by the radiation sickness that seems to be claiming more and more of his body with each passing year.
The final semi-official event of the weekend was a car cruise that saw a half-dozen customized vehicles circling the dirt roads around the compound to create some great photo and video opportunities (and simply because it was a lot of fun).
The clean-up and tear-down crew stayed in the desert for days after the event, removing all traces that any of it had ever happened. These are the folks that will survive and thrive in a real apocalypse, busting their butts for all of us long after amenities such as portapotties had been carted away.
As for Wasteland Weekend 2012, planning for it had begun before the 2011 weekend had even finished. If people weren’t talking about how much there were enjoying this year, they were plotting how to do it all bigger and better next year. By sunset on Sunday, the organizers had already made two big decisions for 2012: push the event date back a week or two to try to get closer to our original aim of doing the event in early October (and as an added bonus make an unseasonable heat wave even less likely, though it’s obviously something we can never completely control), and turn the three days of the event into four. The apocalypse is growing…
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