Wacken Open Air is a rock music festival, held annually since 1989 on the first weekend of August in the village of Wacken in Schleswig-Holstein, Germany. Almost all styles and subgenres of hard rock and metal are represented and hosted. It is now one of the largest heavy metal festivals in the world and one of the largest open-air festivals in Germany. Between 2011–2018, the number of attendees was around 85,000, 75,000 of whom were paying visitors.
The idea for Wacken Open Air was conceived in 1989 when Thomas Jensen and Holger Hübner visited a restaurant together. Both lived in Wacken and were friends, Jensen played the electric bass with Rock cover band Skyline. Hübner was a disc jockey with a focus on Rock music and Heavy Metal. Jensen and Hübner developed the idea to organise an open-air concert in a gravel pit in Wacken and persuaded Skyline drummer Andreas Göser and Jörg Jensen, Thomas Jensen’s brother, to help make it happen. Until then, the pit had already served as a meeting venue for up to 3,000 members of biker club ‘No Mercys’, it was therefore perfectly suited for their plans and also presented an opportunity to attract motorcycle fans. From the beginning, it was clear that the focus of the event would be on Rock and Metal.
Wacken Open Air’s event area is divided into several structurally separated sections. Since 2014, only one major security check is performed upon entering the grounds, after that, only the festival wristbands are checked.
The site covers more than 240 hectares, which are divided by more than 45 kilometres of fence. The inner area, including the main stage, has a size of 43,000 square metres. More than 1,300 toilets and almost 500 showers are available for the 75,000 paying attendees. 2,200 trucks with equipment are needed for the entire festival. Stage construction and dismantling usually take 7 days and 5 days respectively. For this, 75 trucks of stage equipment (1,000 tons), 10 trucks of sound equipment and 27 trucks of lighting equipment are used
Special features of the W:O:A include the Wackinger area, which resembles a medieval market and contains specialty food and beverage stalls as well as the Wackinger Stage, where matching music is played. Various walking acts also entertain the audience. This area borders on the Wasteland designed by the Wasteland Warriors, where a post-apocalyptic world and stage (Wastelandstage) styled in homage to the Mad Max-franchise is set up.
The area in front of the main stages comprises both the Bavarian beer garden and a large shopping mile called Metal Markt. There are also various food stalls, the Wacken Foundation Camp, ATMs, and the Movie Field, where Heavy Metal documentaries and feature films are screened.
The most important stages, the focal point of the festival, are located in the so-called Infield, which can be reached only via the Center. In addition to these stages, it also hosts food and beverage stalls.
In 2017, a beer pipeline measuring one kilometer to supply ten dispensing systems was used for the first time. At full capacity, this construction allowed for 10,000 litres of beer to be tapped within the hour.