September 11, 2014

Turn Down for What The Hell is Going on: A Weekend in Whatever USA

Turn Down for What The Hell is Going on: A Weekend in Whatever USA

I spent the better part of last week in cars, planes, trains, and buses, sleeping on cots and couches and hotel beds. The first part of the week I attended Hopscotch Festival’s inaugural design conference in Raleigh, NC, and you can check out my liveblog for Paste here. After Hopscotch was over, I hopped on a plan to head to Denver, CO for Bud Light’s #WhateverUSA event (also covering for work, our write up is here).

 

Whatever USA

Here’s the gist of it: Bud Light paid the small town of Crested Butte, Co, a TON of money to turn their streets blue and take over for a weekend, naming it ‘Whatever USA’. Out of 120,000 applicants, Bud Light picked 1,000 people to represent their brand and come hang out in their newly created town. From what I understand, people submitted videos and were otherwise active on social media to show that they were “up for whatever”—winners were also selected in waves, and some people got their flight information the night before! We knew several weeks ahead of time, but no other details.

I had my fancy camera and was snapping pictures left and right—there was so much to take in without being overwhelming. I hate crowds, noise, and heat, but Whatever USA barely had any of those things. There were enough side events going on that the crowds were small, the noise was managable, and the weather, oh the weather. Colorado is probably the most lovely place I’ve ever been to. Sunny and breezy, with crisp fresh air that makes Atlanta’s feel thick. I was constantly out of breath from the elevation, but that seemed like a small price to pay for a breathtaking view every way I turned. Whatever USA could’ve been a total bust and I’d be happy just looking out the window.

Whatever USA

They had human bowling. I wish I’d gotten to do this, hope that someone captured this on a Go Pro. Whatever USA

There was a petting zoo in the “South of Whatever” section—this bar and their patio were turned into a Southwestern experience, with bands and beer to boot. IMG_0027

I loved this sign. The designed elements in Whatever USA were surprisingly tasteful—the posters seemed to be screenprinted, and they were wheatpasting them up on these boards. IMG_0033 IMG_0035

The town’s buildings themselves were something to see. They looked like something from a movie set, but Bud Light hadn’t touched the architecture. These were real buildings, and I loved the old timey type and paneling. 
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After the parade, toys and props were thrown on anything. Bud Light also gave wristbands to the locals to come hang out in Whatever USA, possibly to make their numbers look larger. They had on orange wristbands (above). IMG_0060

More cool posters. All of these signs are largely derivative of other designs I’ve seen, but kudos at least for trying, I guess. IMG_0061

There were quite a few people in costume, I couldn’t tell if they were supposed to be there or not. This woman kept getting harassed by drunk guys, you can see one right behind her head. IMG_0080

There was a painter doing quick pieces of some of the Bud Light/Whatever USA monstrosities. IMG_0086

One store opened up their oxygen bar for anyone to come and relax—a man puts a plastic tube around your nose and ears, and these tinier plastic tubes stick up your nose and release oxygen. It’s a super weird feeling for anyone who’s never done it. IMG_0090

Everyone was surprisingly pleasant and friendly! IMG_0098 IMG_0112

Got to hop in the media pit during Charli XCX, IMG_0162

And then climbed on top of the stage to get this shot. IMG_0259

After Charli  XCX, Bud Light threw an EDM show featuring Alesso (who sounds indistinguishable to any other EDM artist), and gave everyone these fancy flashing coats to wear in the dark. I swear, the light show was very cool. Lots of lasers, everyone loves a party with lasers, right? IMG_0309

The next morning I ate two slices of pizza and donuts for breakfast, and then joined a group to go running on the mountain in these derpy Kangoo shoes. This turned out to be a mistake—from being too full and also winded from the elevation, I slinked back to the starting line and sheepishly ran away with my own shoes.

 

Did I mention all the food was free? Yes. Literally. All of the food was free in every restaurant. 7 Eleven was doing free delivery to your room, bringing pizza and snacks and slurpees and swag for FREE, any hour of the day or night. Free pizza is one thing, but Dacey and I had free sushi, free wings and fries, free tacos and pitas and of course, free beer (as long as you wanted Bud Light). Coincidentally, I signed up for a gym membership when I came home.IMG_0329 IMG_0336 IMG_0337 IMG_0339

The view. was. SPECTACULAR. Seriously. Coming from a place that is largely devoid of natural beauty (Atlanta has a lot of trees and parks, but like, this is the ROCKIES), I was so in awe of my surroundings. We were allowed to ride the ski lifts up and down, and I did this several times, just watching the trees and mountains go by. IMG_0344 IMG_0363

There was even a deer beneath my feet at one point.
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Seriously, how beautiful is this. IMG_0372

This is a shot of our hotels—I think the Whatever USA contestants took up all (or most) of them. IMG_0373

Of course there was a Bud Light monster truck you could pose with. IMG_0375

And a huge director’s chair, because why notIMG_0401

 

Oh also, the Prancercise lady was there. Remember her from last summer? They even had a horse running alongside (Lil Bub??). IMG_0425

We went to band camp to meet the Cold War Kids and play derpy instruments with them, but they never showed. Sucks to suck, we got these cool hats instead—I lugged that hat home through ten hours of return transit (through TSA lines and everything), and it now proudly sits in my closet.

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There was a soap box derby design class, but I’m assuming they had professionals do these. A race came later. IMG_0460 IMG_0463 IMG_0466

More petting zoo shots because they were so cute.
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Also, free carriage rides up and down main street. IMG_0471

More shots of the adorable architecture. There was a steak eating contest at Maxwell’s—I would’ve participated, but I was already too full on wings and tacos.
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Not sure if this guy was supposed to be here, either—he has a locals wristband, I think they just all own costumes. IMG_0477

There was a hot tub plaza by the big boombox and beach. IMG_0508 IMG_0579

A drag race, led by drag queens. 
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Oh also, did I mention the ice cream was free? IMG_0604

Saturday night they threw a massive dinner for all 1300 people. I didn’t make it because I’d just eaten about $100 worth of free sushi.
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