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Wacken Open Air (W:O:A) is one of the leading summer open air heavy metal music festivals. It takes place annually in the small town of Wacken in Schleswig-Holstein, northern Germany. With 70,000 festival visitors, and including personnel a total of over 72,000 attendees in 2007, it attracts all kinds of metal music fans, such as fans of black metal, death metal, power metal, thrash metal, gothic metal and folk metal, from around the world.
The festival was first held in 1990 as a small event for local German bands. By 1998 the event had become the major festival on the European metal calendar and has included over 70 bands from all over Europe, North America and Australia. W:O:A is usually held at the beginning of August and lasts three days, during which the festival-goers camp on several large camping grounds surrounding the actual festival area. The 70 or more bands perform across four separate stages over the course of the event.
The 2009 edition set a sales record; it sold out on December 30, 2008. All 70,000 tickets were sold over 200 days before the opening of the festival.