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Thousands descended upon the Mojave Desert this week for the five-day Wasteland Weekend Festival

Thousands of fans of the post-apocalyptic world of Mad Max have descended on California‘s Mojave Desert for a five-day-long festival that looks like something out of a Hollywood blockbuster.

The immersive Wasteland Weekend Festival has been held in Edwards, California every year since 2010, but was cancelled last year due to Covid restrictions. 

But the event came back with a vengeance this year, as leather-clad motorcyclists and cosplayers inspired by characters from the long-running franchise returned to the desert Wednesday, and running to Sunday.

The festival describes itself as a ‘world pulled straight out of the Mad Max movies and other post-apocalyptic films and games, beyond the grip of so-called civilization,’ according to its website

Attendees enjoy fire dancers, burlesque acts, live bands and DJs, and even a movie theater with an in-house film festival as they gallivant around the desert pretending the rest of the world has been pulverized.

Photos from this week’s event show revelers walking the desert wearing torn fishnets and shirts, covered in dirt and carrying mock weapons.

Wasteland Weekend Festival asks attendees to adhere to the theme as much as possible in order to not break the illusion

Organizers ask guests: ''Can you walk through the background of a movie like Road Warrior or Book of Eli and not distract the audience by looking out of place?'

Organizers ask guests: ”Can you walk through the background of a movie like Road Warrior or Book of Eli and not distract the audience by looking out of place?’

Guests may bring their own alcohol, though none is allowed to be sold on the premises

Guests may bring their own alcohol, though none is allowed to be sold on the premises

RPG at RPG: Above, someone at role-playing event with a rocket-propelled grenade launcher

RPG at RPG: Above, someone at role-playing event with a rocket-propelled grenade launcher

The strictly 18-and-over festival asks attendees to adhere to the Mad Max theme and not break the illusion. Certain zones are reserved for those who don’t want to break character.

‘Do you pass as existing on the same movie set or will you stick out? Can a logical connection be seen between your theme and everyone else around you (without you having to explain it verbally)?’ the festival asks on its FAQ page.

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‘Can you walk through the background of a movie like Road Warrior or Book of Eli and not distract the audience by looking out of place?’

Among outfit no-nos are: robot costumes, anime-inspired looks, and anything Star Wars, Batman, Disney, and Harley Quinn.

Along with live bands, the festival also hosts an in-house film festival

Along with live bands, the festival also hosts an in-house film festival

The event has a strict post-apocalyptic theme drawn mostly from the Mad Max films

The event has a strict post-apocalyptic theme drawn mostly from the Mad Max films

Vehicles and costumes at the event take direct inspiration from the leather and muscle-car heavy source material. A Great Humongous inspired cosplayer rode atop an old-school hotrod

Vehicles and costumes at the event take direct inspiration from the leather and muscle-car heavy source material. A Great Humongous inspired cosplayer rode atop an old-school hotrod   

The permanent festival site sits between the defunct Nevada nuclear test site, where from 1951 a total of 928 nuclear warheads were tested during the cold war, and Hollywood. 

Founder Jared Butler told the Mojave Desert News in 2019: ‘We have a broad demographic in terms of ages, backgrounds and interests.

‘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.’

He added: ‘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.’ 

The Wasteland Weekend Festival kicked off on September 22 and ends Sunday, September 26

The Wasteland Weekend Festival kicked off on September 22 and ends Sunday, September 26

Outfit no-no's include: Star Wars, anime, Disney, Batman, Harley Quinn and visible shirt logos

Outfit no-no’s include: Star Wars, anime, Disney, Batman, Harley Quinn and visible shirt logos

The five-day event takes place near the Mojave Desert in Edwards, California

The five-day event takes place near the Mojave Desert in Edwards, California

Attendees enjoy entertainment from fire dancers, burlesque acts and live bands and DJs

Attendees enjoy entertainment from fire dancers, burlesque acts and live bands and DJs

Some items from the festival’s stall can be purchased, or ‘bartered for’, using themed bottle caps that are given out at the event. 

Eric Davidson, an IT professional from Fontana, told the Guardian: ‘Going to wasteland is leaving your real life behind, no worries about traffic rush hour, paying your bills … People get to escape reality for a time, and that’s when the best in true human nature emerges.’

The event holds a competition for the best decorated vehicles and costumes, and sees some attendees going to extreme lengths to win prizes. 

As well as offering daily archery, attendees can also join post-apocalyptic doll-making workshops, robot battles and a tattoo judging as well as much more.

Signature to Mad Max, and Wasteland Weekend are busted-up sports cars, hot rods and muscle cars, which serve as vital transportation and defense in the franchise's post apocalyptic world

Signature to Mad Max, and Wasteland Weekend are busted-up sports cars, hot rods and muscle cars, which serve as vital transportation and defense in the franchise’s post apocalyptic world 

The event is strictly 18-and-over and requires a photo ID to be shown at the door for entry

The event is strictly 18-and-over and requires a photo ID to be shown at the door for entry

Vehicles at the event must be driven at 5 mph or less, and never at night, organizers say

Vehicles at the event must be driven at 5 mph or less, and never at night, organizers say

Phones are not banned but guests are encouraged to limit the use for photos and emergencies

Phones are not banned but guests are encouraged to limit the use for photos and emergencies

A fast and rugged set of wheels was essential in the harsh post apocalypse of the Mad Mad universe

A fast and rugged set of wheels was essential in the harsh post apocalypse of the Mad Mad universe

While Wasteland Weekend has existed in its current format since 2010, the first-ever Mad Max role-playing fan event known in the United States was Roadwar USA, and was held in 2004.

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Fans of the franchise, which began with George Miller’s eponymous Mad Max film in 1979, would drive in the replica vehicles from the flicks down California’s 101 freeway alongside an oil tanker, according to the event website.

It was organized by Karol Bartoszynski, who remains involved with Wasteland Weekend to this day. 

Starting with just 350 attendees, it has grown massively in popularity, with 4,300 participants attending the sold-out event in 2019. Attendance figures for the 2021 event are not yet available. 

Tickets are $245 per person and include parking, camping, and unlimited ins and outs

Tickets are $245 per person and include parking, camping, and unlimited ins and outs

The biggest inspirations are the Mad Max films Road Warrior, Thunderdome and Fury Road

The biggest inspirations are the Mad Max films Road Warrior, Thunderdome and Fury Road

Certain zones, like Wasteland City, are 100 percent theme-required and strictly overseen

Certain zones, like Wasteland City, are 100 percent theme-required and strictly overseen

Event goers draw inspiration from Mad Max’s colorful cast of characters with their costumes. 

Aside from your average rugged wasteland wanderer, a number of pasty War Boys from the series’ latest entry Fury road could be seen moving about the camp. 

Other character renditions include Immortan Joe, also from Fury Road, and the Great Humongous, from its second iteration, The Road Warrior.

An estimated 4,000 people showed up in 2019, though this year's figures are as of yet unknown

An estimated 4,000 people showed up in 2019, though this year’s figures are as of yet unknown

A woman in fishnets and a makeshift torn umbrella walks around a post-apocalyptic set

A woman in fishnets and a makeshift torn umbrella walks around a post-apocalyptic set

The festival has been held in the Mojave Desert every year since 2010, except for last year

The festival has been held in the Mojave Desert every year since 2010, except for last year

The festival encourages costumes that are in-line with the theme, but nothing outside of it

The festival encourages costumes that are in-line with the theme, but nothing outside of it

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