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Villagers meet heavy metal fans in Wacken

Wacken Open Air not always popular - festival is key economic factor

The 2,000 strong village of Wacken is expecting its numbers to swell when around 100,000 heavy metal fans arrive for this year’s Wacken Open Air (W:O:A) underway from August 1-3, 2019. The tale of the village in Schleswig-Holstein might have been along the lines of “Once upon a time there was a village…” Yet Wacken in the Hamburg Metropolitan Region has long since become a Mecca for tens of thousands of metal fans worldwide, who travel to the Steinburg region especially for the annual festival. Signs that the festival is imminent are everywhere. Hamburg Airport has a special lounge for W:O:A visitors and in Munich the “Metal-Train” is taking to the rails headed for Itzehoe to bring 750 guests to Wacken. “The pull effect is enormous,” said Leander Schlicht, spokesman for the festival.

Residents identify with festival

First held in 1990, the Wacken Open Air attracted only a few hundred visitors at the time. However, numbers have soared ever since. Yet, not all villagers were pleased by the seemingly endless queues of cars driving through the hushed village every year. “We had to have some talks,” Schlicht conceded. Meanwhile, the complaints have ceased. “That’s what makes it a great success story. Something has flourished in the village with which everyone identifies.”

Holger Huebner und Thomas Jensen

But the Wacken Open Air is not only a fun event, it is also a key economic factor for the north. The organizer, Holger Hübner, has a declared strategy of involving regional partners, said Schlicht. They include welcoming hotels and youth hostels in the region. And the pull effect is also clearly palpable in Hamburg, Schlicht added, as most of the performing musicians stay in* hotels* in the city. Experienced, international companies manage nine, highly complex large stages. “However, contractors from the region have built the smaller stages,” he noted.

Social aspect of festival

The organisers also work with the Brunsbüttel-based foundation Stiftung Mensch, which is dedicated to inclusion. As a result, people with disabilities work in logistics during the festival at the behest of the foundation. The organisers’ social aspirations are noticeable elsewhere. Since 2014, W:O:A has co-operated with DKMS, a non-profit limited company that brings together stem cell donors and blood cancer patients. DKMS is on hand at the festival and has already attracted 7,300 potential new donors in this way. Some 32 metal heads have already donated stem cells, according to DKMs data. This year, DKMS has set itself the goal of 10,000 potential donors to mark the 30th Wacken Open Air.

Meanwhile, identification with the festival is so strong that villagers, backed by the organizers, are now offering visitors an opportunity to open an email account ending on and the “unique opportunity of identifying with Wacken and the W:O:A”.

Sources and further information:

Melissa KnausJuly 31, 2019
festival wirtschaft