EDWARDS – If everything has gone according to plan, civilization as we know it has ended in the North Edwards area as of noon on Wednesday. The end will only be temporary however, as the post-apocalyptic music and arts festival known as Wasteland Weekend concludes Sunday.
A strictly 18 and over only event, Wasteland Weekend draws much of its influence from Mad Max franchise and requires all attendees to wear appropriately themed clothing. The event itself takes place on about 85 acres of a much larger parcel of land off of Rosewood Boulevard in the Edwards area.
“It’s always been a way for people to live inside a Mad Max world for awhile to escape their daily lives,” said Wasteland Co-Founder and Event Director Jared Butler on Sept. 19. “Very little has to do with the realism of a post-apocalyptic civilization. We don’t want sad, realistic version of the apocalypse. We’re there to have fun for a few days and let people escape their daily lives.”
A combination desert party, car show and music concert, the festival has been growing every year since it was founded in 2010. The 2018 event saw 4,000 attendees make the journey to a large patch of desert in the Edwards area via California City.
“We bought this piece of land because you can’t really see any signs of civilization for 360 degrees,” said Butler. “We want this to be a fully immersive experience. It’s a pure desert vista.”
The event was actually based in California City’s 20-acre Off Highway Vehicle area Campsite H for many years, but soon outgrew the site. Prior to that, organizers were planning to hold the festival in the Johnson Valley area.
“We were pretty close to using a location at Soggy Dry Lake and that location fell through at the last minute,” said Butler. “We were able to find Cal City at the last minute, that kind of saved the event.”
The initial event was small, but organizers felt it was successful enough to keep it going.
“We’ve always been careful to control the growth of the event so that it doesn’t get too big too fast,” said Butler.
He said very few of those involved in the event had any experience with organizing festivals. The controlled growth allowed organizers to more easily learn from past missteps and make corrections to improve the event.
“It was just kind of a side job and hobby that really kind of took over our lives,” said Butler.
Billed as the world’s largest post-apocalyptic festival, organizers are expecting some 4,200 people and hundreds of themed vehicles to arrive at the event this year.
“We’re not 100 percent final on that number, but our tickets do sell out every year,” said Butler. “Only a small part of the event is vehicle based, it’s more that they are part of scenery and the vibe. Over 200 fully themed vehicles came out last year. In the first one or two years, there might have been less than a dozen, but it quickly started to grow. It takes time and money to build a cool car.”
The event is set up in two basic areas, a campsite area – most attendees stay for the full duration of the event – and the fully immersive city behind the Wasteland gates.
“We have a broad demographic in terms of ages, backgrounds and interests,” said Butler. “People are drawn to the event for many different reasons and we didn’t want to set the barrier to entry so high that they couldn’t attend. If they only want a little bit of immersive, they can stay in the camp area. For the fully immersive experience there is still the city behind the gates.
“It’s not about making everything look great, it’s about the experience we can give to the attendee. When you’re out there and everything looks different, you do get this sense of escape, that’s one of the things people gravitate to about the event.”
Butler said the majority of people who attend come from the Southwest region of the United States.
“But we do have huge number of people who come from all over, including the East Coast and Canada,” he said. “Others fly in from Australia, Germany, Japan and even France. For some of them, this is their first visit to the Mojave Desert, some have never seen a desert of any kind. For some of these people, Cal City is now their favorite vacation spot once a year and some have brought property in Cal City because of the event.”
Butler added that organizers will also have a special patch to hand out to certain first-time attendees.
“We’ve been around long enough now that there are people who were just little kids when we started,” he said. “It seems kind of crazy we’ve been around that long, so we will have a special patch to give away to anyone who is 18-years-old and attending for the first time.”
California City will still see some benefit to the event, according to Butler. The official map for entry routes attendees through the city.
“We still consider Cal City to be the home of the event in a lot ways,” he said. “It’s also the place we all stop and get supplies on the way in and out.”