5 Festivals That Turned Into Hilarious Disasters
These days, it can seem like the world is more divided than ever. That's why everyone who didn't actually attend remembers the Fyre Festival so fondly, as people from all walks of life came together to laugh at wealthy Instagram celebrities sobbing in horror at the sight of a somewhat unpleasant lunch. But don't worry! There are plenty of other hilarious festival trainwrecks out there. For example...
Normal Rain Turned An EDM Fest Into The Walking Dead
Held on an isolated farm in rural Georgia, TomorrowWorld billed itself as one of the biggest electronic music festivals in America. The first two years went off without a hitch, so guests flocked to the 2015 event, hoping to enjoy the classic EDM experience (overpaying for what turns out to be a Flintstones vitamin with an "E" scratched into it while pizza-preneur Steve Aoki frantically tries to explain why his speakers briefly started playing a gardening podcast). But they had no idea of the grueling ordeal that lay in wait, as TomorrowWorld 2015 was turned into a horror movie-level hellscape by a terrifying and unexpected event: scattered showers!
We're not kidding about the "post-apocalyptic hellscape" part either -- you can actually put "and then the crows came" after every sentence for the rest of this entry and it won't seem out of place at all. The rain turned the site into a muddy bog, which would have been manageable, but then the organizers suddenly announced that they would no longer be able to provide the shuttle service that was supposed to take non-campers back into Atlanta on Saturday, stranding everyone in the middle of nowhere as night arrived. Thousands of drunk EDM fans ended up stumbling for miles through dark and muddy woods, desperately seeking a way out. Some people collapsed and had to be carried, while others gave up and slept in the forest without shelter.
Witnesses described seeing "Walking Dead hordes" of increasingly hungover and dehydrated David Guetta fans moving listlessly through the trees. Others described it as "like the Hunger Games," which is hopefully an exaggeration, unless surviving staff from the face-painting tent disguised themselves as rocks to hide from bands of spear-wielding feral teens. Once the march hit a road, people banged on bus windows and lay down in the road to stop vehicles from driving away without them. Desperate marchers pooled cash and formed competing alliances trying to bribe drivers to take them out. Ubers and cabs flocked to the area, charging a small fortune to ferry the wealthier revelers to safety. Which might actually be a fun glimpse of the real Tomorrow World, if the worst predictions about climate change are on the money.
Some people actually went back for the third day, presumably as part of a life insurance scam, only for organizers to announce the festival was now closed to anyone not already camping out, at which point the enraged crowd tried to charge the gate. Local authorities blamed promoter incompetence for the problems, while the promoters themselves blamed "Mother Nature." Bear in mind, there weren't massive flash floods washing away the world of man or anything, this all happened because of mildly heavy rain. The festival has not been held since.
The Same Guy Keeps Running Stunningly Terrible Food Festivals
While Billy McFarland remains the gold standard for a disastrous festival boss, there is one man -- we won't say hero, because what's a hero? -- who has dedicated his life to outdoing the Fyre Festival itself. Meet Ishmael Osekre, who has spent years roving up and down the East Coast on an epic quest to stage the most hilariously bleak food festivals known to man. He first came to widespread attention following the 2017 NYC Pizza Festival, which was supposed to be a "daylong celebration of pizza," but instead turned into a social experiment about how long Facebook foodies would last in a POW camp. Imagine looking into this lot and deciding to queue:
The festival's energetic social media campaign promised an endless sea of pizza, with an exotic variety of toppings and flavors, enjoyed in luxurious surroundings. Even better, the event would be held simultaneously with the NYC Burger Festival, which would have "mountains of French Fries, Oceans of Ketchup and Waterfalls of Beer." Over 1,000 people paid between $55 and $150 for tickets, with some even driving in from out of state. So they were very surprised when they arrived to find a couple of tents in a "sketchy parking lot," where staff were "taking cold pizzas out of delivery boxes" and cutting them into tiny slivers. It ultimately emerged that Osekre had ordered a mere eight cheese-and-onion pizzas for an event attended by hundreds. Eight pizzas! The panicking staff were left with no choice but to desperately try for some kind of bread-and-fishes miracle, dividing the pizzas up among the guests.
Remaining cool under pressure, Osekre ordered a few more pizzas and attempted to defend the event, issuing a rambling statement that "It's exciting when food arrives every 30-45 minutes--and so many boxes of pizzas and it's fresh and it's hot and people see it and they are sharing." Which didn't really fly, since a quick check revealed that he was also responsible for 2016's disastrous Boston African Food Festival. That one promised all sorts of Instagram-ready treats, including private food tastings on luxury water taxis ferrying guests across the river. The food lovers of Boston turned out in droves, only to find the whole festival was some trestle tables set up inside a literal greenhouse on the hottest day of the year. The few staff members then started selling off water bottles at extortionate prices, because somebody's gotta be the Immortan Joe in that situation.
That whole festival was funded by defrauding one of Boston's top African chefs, who signed on to support the festival without realizing she'd end up on the hook for most of the charges. It was also the sequel to Boston's 2015 AfrikCan Festival, which was cancelled at the last minute. And Osekre wasn't even done, holding yet another food event in Washington last year. This one appeared to have no employees whatsoever, as multiple guests described confronting bar staff only to discover that they were actually also customers. They had simply become so confused at the lack of service that they just started pouring everyone drinks themselves. Somebody eventually appeared in the kitchen and cooked some jollof rice, but reports suggest it was just another guest taking matters into their own hands. The nicest review included the phrase "this is a shit show." Osekre is currently facing fraud charges. Let's hope they don't let him run the prison cafeteria.
The British Christmas Wonderland (That Resembled An Abandoned Gulag)
Since the people of Britain collectively gave up some decades ago, it's now an annual tradition for the whole country to come together to laugh at its hilariously depressing Christmas attractions. We're talking about Santa's Grottos where an elf mugs you in the parking lot, Yuletide theme parks where the reindeer are just golden retrievers with coathangers taped to their heads, candlelit sled rides that turn out to be a drunk pulling you around in a garbage bin while smoking an e-cig ... you get the idea. But nobody has ever topped the event that started the whole tradition: 2011's Lapland New Forest, the "snowy winter wonderland" that single-handedly ended the childhood of everyone who set foot inside.
Lapland New Forest advertised itself as a "magical" experience, featuring an "Avenue of Light, Hollywood Special FXs, Fantastic Fun Ice Rink, Seasonal Food, Market Stalls...& much more!" Tickets weren't cheap (25 pound minimum), but an advertising blitz ensured they were snapped up by about 40,000 eager Brits, bringing in well over 1 million pounds in revenue. Which was unfortunate, since the actual event turned out to resemble Santa's secret gulag. Howling, borderline feral huskies roamed the woods behind chain-link fences, while enraged parents engaged in multiple fistfights with chain-smoking elves. The "ice rink" was just a puddle next to a broken generator, while the "magical tunnel of lights" was a string of Christmas tree lights strung between two trees.
The "winter animal enclosures" included stuffed toy reindeer and plastic polar bears dumped randomly in the woods. "Santa's Grotto" was just a guy in a cheap costume sitting inside a garden shed, but the line still stretched for over two hours, since it was basically the only attraction that worked. You had to pay extra to enter the "bustling Christmas market," which turned out to be a bunch of cheap clothes stuffed randomly into large cardboard boxes. Staff weren't exactly well trained, with one visitor complaining "I took my son to the toilet and he saw 'Santa' having a cigarette break at the side of a Portaloo." In fairness, nothing stirs a sense of Christmas wonder in a child like seeing Santa crying and sniping cigarette butts while begging someone named "Sharon" to take him back over a taped-together Razr phone.
In fairness, the staff were probably the biggest victims in the whole thing, having been essentially issued with a little red hat then dumped in a muddy field with vague instructions to create some festive magic. They ended up fending off angry mobs of parents with giant candy canes while desperately begging for support from the bosses. Which never arrived, possibly because corporate HQ was apparently located in a disused public toilet on an industrial estate. The whole thing was so shit the organizers literally had to go to jail over it.
The Giant Cheese Board Turned "Post-Apocalyptic"
The Giant Cheese Board was a London food festival centered around "a massive, oversized cheese board. One you can walk around on as if you're in a giant's kitchen" The glossy adverts also promised "a giant fireplace to snuggle by," a huge baked camembert, unlimited tasting of cheeses from around the world, and endless mulled wine. One ad promised that "this is going to change your lives forever," while a major magazine urged readers not to miss such a "beautiful fever dream." Hundreds of foodies quickly shelled out for the pricey tickets. Which is unfortunate, because the "giant cheese board" turned out to be this:
At least move the ladder guys.
Things got off to a good start after the doors opened late, leaving a line of shivering cheese freaks huddled on a desolate North London industrial estate for almost an hour, as the rain hammered down and trucks rumbled by. Once inside, they discovered that the festival itself was a grimmer scene than anything The Road ever managed, housed partly in a run-down nightclub and partly in drafty, dirt-stained tents lit by a single flickering halogen strip. The "giant cheese board" was a line of normal cheese boards scattered with just five different cheeses, which is fewer types of cheese than we have in our mouth right now. The cheese itself was variously described as "cold," "tasteless," "airplane quality," and worst of all "British."
This is either a tweet about the event, or just what the UK's like now after Brexit.
The "huge fireplace" was just an image projected on a wall, which provided no warmth, but did give guests the feeling of being trapped in cheese hell. This was further encouraged by the soundtrack, which apparently relied heavily on the work of S Club 7. The halloumi burger and baked camembert stalls were completely missing, apparently due to a mysterious illness outbreak among the chefs. There was a giant chess set, but it was soon thrown into disarray after a disgruntled attendee tried to fight it. Panicking staff scurried about in plastic mouse ears and face-painted whiskers, attempting to ration the dwindling chutney stockpile. Rumors spread that the cheese itself was running out, as attendees frantically tried to recoup their money by gnawing as much discount cheddar as possible in various windswept corners of the tent.
Did they cut that camembert with a hammer?
The crowd quickly succumbed to cheese madness, chanting "What do we want? Cheese! When do we want it? Now!" Fortunately, the free mulled wine turned out to contain almost no alcohol, which probably prevented a full-scale riot from developing. The organizers declined to offer refunds, insisting that they had done everything they were legally obliged to, since "there categorically is unlimited cheese." The whole experience was described as "post-apocalyptic," which sounds like an accurate description of lining up in the rain to grimly munch cheese in a filthy tent.
Glastonbury 2005 Turned Into The Swamp Of Despair
The Glastonbury Festival was founded on an English dairy farm in the 1970s, inspired by the hippie ethos of peace and love. The early years were fairly relaxed affairs, with attendees not letting little things like knee-deep lakes of cow shit put a damper on the party. It's since evolved into a fairly standard modern music festival, featuring glamping, VIP gourmet food and the fanciest yurts since Genghis Khan invented the portable sex jacuzzi. But there was one brief moment when Glastonbury suddenly reverted to hippie chaos. As a result, you can still walk into any merchant bank in London and instantly trigger Vietnam-level PTSD flashbacks in like six guys named Toby, simply by shouting "Glasto 2005."
Now, this entry is an outlier on this list, since, as one of the biggest and oldest music festivals in the world, Glastonbury is usually pretty well-run. Management don't locate the chill-out tents on top of fire ant colonies, or only order one toilet and charge people 10 grand to use it. But sometimes you can do everything right, only to discover that a vengeful Zeus has other plans. That's exactly what happened in 2005, when a freak storm suddenly did this:
It was like they decided to hold Coachella on week four of The Somme (which will definitely happen if we ever invent time travel). Lightning hit stages and tents and knocked out power for several hours on the first day of the festival, while the hard ground meant that actual rivers appeared out of nowhere, carrying off possessions and leaving garbage strewn everywhere. The toilets literally sank, adding some delightful additional mud to the stew. It's rumored that residents of some Polynesian islands still occasionally see grizzled, sunburnt castaways canoeing past in a sideways port-a-potty, asking for directions to the Coldplay show.
Impressively, almost nobody left and the festival continued for the rest of the weekend. Everyone managed to survive "farmageddon" with a stiff upper lip intact. Now, that's how you deal with rain, TomorrowWorld.
Top image: Alessandro de Leo/Shutterstock