Wasteland Weekend 2015: 4-Day, MAD MAX-inspired, Post-Apocalyptic Festival

Wasteland Weekend 2015: An Outrageous 4-Day Post-Apocalyptic Party in California’s Mojave Desert

Jan 18, 2016

Mad Max Films Come to Life

By Jared Butler

Each year since 2010, a strange gathering has been growing in the Mojave Desert. Hundreds at first, and eventually thousands of people have been coming together to build a temporary post-apocalyptic city beyond the reaches of civilization. And after just a few days, they tear it all down again. But those few days in between are like nothing else on earth. It’s Wasteland Weekend. A completely immersive Mad Max party, featuring modified vehicles, themed encampments, live entertainment and mandatory costumes. 

WATCH Wasteland Weekend 2014: An Introduction - official video HERE:

Wasteland Weekend 2015 - Costumes Required!

From its humble beginnings as a small MAD MAX fan get-together, Wasteland Weekend has blossomed into an innovative and outrageous music and arts festival like no other. Did we mention the mandatory costumes? That’s right. There are no spectators at Wasteland, only participants (even the international media crews that show up to cover the event are not allowed on the grounds without some kind of themed wardrobe). 

Pictured above: From left to right: Will Morgan, Pete Kelley, Jesse Gee and Bruce D. Mitchell. Photo by Keri Kilgo.

The days are filled with car cruises, gladiator fights, bounty hunting games, and bartering goods, while the nights light up with fire performers, live bands, DJs, sideshow acts, burlesque dancers, and a casino where the only currency is bottle caps - and all of it in a post-apocalyptic theme of course.

Pictured above: Jake McKinnon as Pez, the Brother of Wez. Photo by Mario Anzuoni/Reuters.

Pictured above: Enthusiasts ride their customized vehicles. Front vehicle's passengers are April Smith, Luke Moulton, Seth Howard, Butch Boot-Straps Saddler and Mark Lamm. Photo by Keri Kilgo.

But while Wasteland Weekend is a full four days of incredible events both day and night (many of them organized and put on by the attendees themselves) one of the highlights, year after year, is the costume contest.

Wasteland Style Awards

Each year, the Wasteland Style Awards (aka the costume contest) brings out some of the most amazing creations from participants around the world. Competitors can enter either the original or the replica category. ("Replica" includes any outfits based primarily on an existing movie, video game, or comic book, character.)

Pictured above: Dustin Creech in his original costume. Photo by Keri Kilgo.

As the world’s biggest all-post-apocalyptic fan event, Wasteland Weekend is naturally the premiere post-apocalyptic costume event, and some competitors work all year on their creations. Past winners have included veteran fabricators from the movie industry, as well as first time makers with little-to-no experience (but a ton of creativity). 

Pictured above: Christine Shea poses in her costume. Photo by Cormac Kehoe.

2015’s costume contest raised the bar yet again, with some amazing work on display. This year, Wasteland Weekend partnered with the Stan Winston School to offer a prize for the four 1st place winners,  (Original Female, Original Male, Replica Female, and Replica Male): full access to the tutorials available at

Pictured above: Attendees climb on the Thunderdome to watch a performance. Photo by Jon Enge.

Evaluation criteria

The Judges for this year’s contest (who had a VERY difficult task) included film industry vet Bruce D. Mitchell (Legacy Effects), well-known cosplayer Liz Hydra (Hydraworx) and Karol Bartoszynski ( Costumes are judged on a variety of factors, including the overall quality and difficulty of the costumes, props, and makeup, the creativity, the originality, and, in the case of the replica category, the accuracy to the original costume. Stage performance, while appreciated, is not factored into the costume score. Winners from previous years are welcome to enter again with a new look, but any costume that has won a prize in a previous year is not eligible.

The top winners in each category for 2015 were:

  • Best Replica Female: Immortan Joe by Desirae Hepp
  • Best Replica Male: Blood 'Shed' War Boy by Eli Stickgold
  • Best Original Female: The Bullet Farmer’s Daughter by Erika Morgengrau
  • Best Original Male: Rustbucket by Pete Kelly

Pictured above: Best Replica Female: Immortan Joe by Desirae Hepp. Photo by Keri Kilgo.

Pictured above: Best Replica Male: Blood 'Shed' War Boy by Eli Stickgold. Photo by Keri Kilgo.

Pictured above: Best Original Female: The Bullet Farmer’s Daughter by Erika Morgengrau. Photo by Thomas Kerns.

Pictured above: Best Original Male: Rustbucket by Pete Kelly. Photo by Keri Kilgo.

We can only guess what the thousands of attendees will create to raise the bar for next year’s competition.

by Jared Butler

Cover photo made by

Official website:
Twitter: @WastelandHQ

Check out courses by festival attendees, Bruce D. Mitchell and Jesse Gee:

How to make a mask with  Bruce D. Mitchell: Part One - Sculpting and Carving

How to make a mask with  Bruce D. Mitchell: Part Two - Painting and Leather working

How to make a Junkyard Robot with Jesse Gee: Junkyard Robot