When I received my invitation to Whatever, USA, the first thought that went through my mind was, “How many children will be conceived as a result of this Bud Light promotion?” And then, “Would there be some inherent shame in that?”
I can tell you with absolute certainty that if you’re reading this 20 years from now, Google searching your true lineage, there is NOTHING you have to be embarrassed about. Bud Light wanted to create the ultimate party weekend and they absolutely nailed it.
At one point during the three days I spent in Whatever, USA, my body composition was roughly 87% Bud Light. But it wasn’t just the endless, literally endless, supply of Bud Light, or the fact that Bud Light was being foisted upon you at every turn, that made Whatever, USA so great. It was the onslaught of once-in-a-lifetime events piled on top of each other, sandwiched between meeting great people from all over the world with one common denominator: being #UpForWhatever.
Here’s some background: From roughly 204,000 video submissions, 1,000 #UpForWhatever winners were selected, given 48 hours to grab a friend, pack their bags and leave for Whatever, USA. In store for them were three days and two nights of activities, epic adventures and unexpected performances at Whatever, USA.
On the surface, you would think that bringing 2,000-plus strangers into a remote location and feeding them Bud Light products exclusively for three days couldn’t help but end badly. But it was the exact opposite. It was like everyone was cut from the same #UpForWhatever cloth.
I didn’t hear a single harsh word spoken, no fighting, nothing. It was like a class reunion for people you only knew for a few hours prior. It was a straight up bro-down. The people who won the contest were legitimately #UpForWhatever and that’s what made everything work.
Kill some time at work or just escape from reality and check out the blow-by-blow recap of each of the three days, Bullz-Eye style.
My flight left Omaha for Denver at 6 AM. When I got up, I actually considered skipping the trip for about 15 seconds. But when I got to the airport and checked in, I was told that there were 24 other people traveling to Whatever on the same flight.
#Awesome. The mood on the plane was glorious. Aside from a few working stiffs in suits taking day trips to Denver for business, everyone was ready to party. Everyone was ready for some Bud Light.
When we landed in Denver and made it to the gate where a chartered plane would take us to Whatever, the excitement was palpable. People from all over the country began to arrive at the gate.
Two hot speech pathologists and I quipped how there were no “65-year old man contest winners.” Everyone was hot. The crowd looked like a Bud Light commercial. Some couldn’t wait for Whatever and hit the airport bar to pregame on a few Bud Lights. Jokes began to flow. Everyone loosened up.
We entered the chartered plane and it was completely branded and decked out in Bud Light colors. The stewards and stewardess were even wearing Bud Light shirts, which made everyone excited.
With all the anticipation, people began wanting to drink Bud Light. It was like a virus, the way it spread. It was 9 AM, but every single person on that plane NEEDED a Bud Light. It’s all we could talk about. Then, airplane staff began walking up and down the aisles handing out Bud Light. People went ape shit:
After an hour flight and a few Bud Lights, we landed in Gunnison, Colorado. When we walked off the plane, there were at least eight tour buses covered in blue with the words “Whatever, USA” in 800-point font.
There was a stretch pink mini cooper with a hot tub. There was a guy on stilts. There was a Bud Light monster truck that kept blaring its horn. There were people from the town leering at us through the fence.
The bus drivers took our bags, escorted us onto the bus, and from there, the Bud Light flowed freely like the salmon of Capistrano.
From there, we drove through the outskirts of Crested Butte, Colorado en route to our hotel, just off the main drag where Whatever, USA lived. We made it to a mountain resort and I still have no idea what the name of it was.
We checked into our rooms (that included Bud Light on ice) and were told with urgency that we had to immediately go downstairs to the basement of one of the hotels to collect our clothes for the “Class of ‘76” Saturday night disco extravaganza or else they may run out. That was all I needed to hear, so I hurried down and stumbled into this:
From there, it was a free for all.
Via the Whatever, USA app, you could see a list of events like “Beer Academy” or “Buddy Bar” and schedule your time. Or, you could not even use the app and just wander around with a Bud Light in your hand and see what you could get into.
You were left to your own devices. You could also order anything from 7-11 at any time (pizza, ibuprofen, Slurpee, t-shirt, etc.) and they would deliver it for free.
I left the hotel after collecting my 70s gear and was standing in front of the hotel finishing a Bud Light, talking to a couple from my hometown. A woman approached us and asked if we wanted to go ziplining.
Since we were all #UpForWhatever, the answer was an immediate “Yes.” She was the zipline instructor and hooked it up.
Ziplining was scary, brah. Much scarier than I thought it would be. But the scenery was outstanding, the company was great, and when the hell are you going to go ziplining on a whim?
Then, it was time to head down the mountain for the official unveiling of Whatever, USA.
In the lobby on the way to the bus, a couple bros had on the same vest and had to Roshambo to see who would change. It was like prom.
Everyone congregated in front of Main St., which was veiled by a roughly 50-foot Bud Light banner. The Mayor made his first appearance, by grabbing the mic on a very tall stage and welcoming us all to Whatever, USA and then leading us in a parade through town. It was hot. It was bright. I was thirsty.
He gradually eased his way onto a blue Bud Light branded horse, music began to erupt, the curtain dropped and he led a throng of several thousand people into Whatever, USA.
Once past the threshold, hot babes were passing out Bud Light everywhere. There were people putting props like boas, sunglasses and hats onto your body. And you didn’t mind one bit.
Beachballs and inflatable aliens and cupcakes were hurtled through the air, all while the Mayor led us, with the final destination being a main stage on one end of town. It was all so ridiculous and fun, all you could do was giggle.
Once we got to the stage, we heard a familiar “YEEEEEEEAH – OH-KAY!!”
Lil Jon burst onto the stage and manned the 1’s and 2’s for roughly an hour. Everyone went completely APE SHIT when he did “Turn Down for What.” It was unlike anything I had ever seen… at that point, anyway. I had a Bud Light in each hand, so I couldn’t record it, but here’s Lil Jon doing “Shots” to give you the flavor:
After Lil Jon, or “ALJ,” like anno domini is to AD, everyone started going TUFF. The town was thrown open and you could do whatever you wanted; like drink Bud Light.
Everything was free. If you wanted to order a steak from a nice restaurant, you could. Pizza? No problem. Every bar in town was restocked with Bud Light, Bud Light Lime and the occasional Lime-A-Rita. And it was good.
Whatever, USA was like a tiny ecosystem. There were a finite number of people in a finite space, so you began seeing people you met earlier in the trip. And everyone said the same thing. “Dude, I can’t believe I’m here! I’ve never seen anything like this!” And it only continued to get better.
More Bud Lights were consumed, and then Charli XCX took the stage. I didn’t realize how many hits she had until I listened to her set. It was great music to do Whatever to. And, she’s a robo-babe.
So now, you’ve had like eleventeen Bud Lights and you’re feeling goofy and fun. But what else could Bud Light do from here? What could be next? How could it get any better? How about a rave/dance party headlined by DJ Alesso?
All of the contest winners were hustled to The Arena for “Light the Night.” Billed as the “event of the weekend,” it was the one event I heard people mention the most over the course of the ensuing two days.
We were each given jackets covered with LED lights that pulsed and changed colors with the beat as DJ Alesso played. It added a whole new level to the fun. I could write an entire separate piece about the concert and how disappointed people were that we couldn’t keep the jackets.
One of my favorite parts of the night was meeting Ian Rappaport, the dude that started the entire #UpForWhatever campaign during the Super Bowl. I felt like a total idiot because, in my excitement, I kept calling him “Ethan” until he politely corrected me.
After this initial meeting, we ran into each other two more times and talked for about 30 minutes total. I asked him about how his life has been altered since being in the commercial and he said it had been like night and day.
He was in sales, selling advertising on billboards, and his life has completely changed. He was as cool and genuine as he appeared in the commercial.
Outside the venue, Bud Light set up an entire carnival, complete with merry-go-round and a Ferris wheel. There were also hot dog stands and funnel cakes, all free.
I vaguely remember eating a funnel cake on the Ferris wheel while watching a guy try to pour some Bud Light into his girlfriend’s mouth (who was on the ground) from the highest point of the Ferris wheel. #UpForWhatever.
Waking up wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be because there was so much awesome stuff in store for Day Two in Whatever. But not everyone felt that way.
As I exited my room, I saw what looked like a baboon, a woman in a cheerleader costume and a man in a band leader’s hat with two trash can lids in his hand going door to door, waking people up via trashcan lid wake-up call, then offering them glazed donuts. The recipients were almost as glazed as the donuts.
I left the resort to head down to Whatever to grab some breakfast and shared an elevator ride with a dude who would prove to be my brother from another mother. A bromance was born.
Oscar was from San Antonio and his special lady went a little too hard the previous night. He was alone to ensconce himself in all things Whatever, as was I. We ventured into Whatever to snag some breakfast and parted ways but exchanged numbers.
I was disappointed to learn that Whatever didn’t open until 10 AM. So I headed back to the resort for breakfast and ran into two girls from Salt Lake City, Utah that arrived on the same plane I did the previous day.
They were all like, “You’re the dude who is on the cover of our Instagram video of when we exited the plane and hit the Bud Light charter buses!” I scoped the video, and sure enough, I was the thumbnail image. The three of us sat down and had a much needed breakfast, exchanged lame jokes and phone numbers.
After that, Oscar and I headed back into a now-enlivened Whatever, USA, each grabbed two Bud Lights and walked down Main St. The first guy we saw was the Mayor and shared a photo opp.
We walked a little further and were sucked in by the sound of some funky beats. On top of a multi-story boombox on the middle of a manmade beach, ?uestlove of The Roots was performing a DJ set. We swapped our pants for Bud Light swim trunks and jumped into one of several hot tubs beneath ?uestlove and watched his afro do its thing.
So here you are at noon on a Saturday, drinking a Bud Light in a hot tub surrounded by mountains, while ?uestlove is DJing the manmade beach in a middle of the street that you are chilling on. #WhutWhut. His afro rivaled the mountains.
We left the beach and ran into a robot named Baxter that was created for the sole purpose of pouring Bud Light:
Bud Light set me up with an interview with Cassadee Pope, winner of the third season of “The Voice.” In true #UpForWhatever style, I did the interview in a wife beater, while my man Oscar filmed the interview.
I was also fortunate to speak with DJ Jerzy, who had spun the crowd into a frenzy opening for Alesso the night before during “Light the Night.”
But the best was yet to come. As soon as I left the Pandora studio interview space, I noticed a conspicuously slow-driving ice cream truck maneuvering its way down Main St.
Handing out ice cream cones from the “Vanilla Ice Cream Truck” was no other than V.I. himself, Vanilla Ice. It was then that I took the greatest image of my professional career. Here is Oscar, summing up Whatever, USA in one shot:
I happened to score some video of VI performing “Ninja Rap.” Completely unreal, look how hyped the crowd is:
At this point, my pleasure centers were completely overloaded. All I could do was stand there and laugh.
Every time you looked up, there’d be something to stare at: Mariachi bands, miniature horses pulling grown men, a Charlie Chaplin mime, it just went on and on. It was an absolute festival of ridiculousness.
After the Ice Man Cometh, it was time to head back to the hotel and get dressed for the “Class of ’76 Reunion.” Because who isn’t looking for a reason to wear 70s clothes?
Prior to the dance, Bud Light served us a nice dinner of fajitas and Bud Light in the middle of Main St. of Whatever, USA. After patrolling the blue painted streets of Whatever and ingesting a few more Bud Lights, we hit the Arena to listen to KC & the Sunshine Band at the “Class of ’76 Reunion.” Oscar and I, phones dead, somehow snuck behind security and gave KC props, hugs and high fives when he was backstage between songs. His body was sweaty.
If there was one picture that rivaled Oscar’s to sum up the entire weekend, it was this one:
A wig, a box of pizza and a half-ingested piece of pizza outside a hotel room door. But what is epic is that someone had the wherewithal to place the “Do Not Disturb” sign neatly on the door lock. #Whatever.
That was the first thing I saw when I left my hotel room to indulge in what was left of Whatever, USA on the final day of the experience.
Day Three was kind of a bummer. As lame as it sounds, the realization that you were going to leave Whatever was settling in. Friendships had been created in sharing the most ridiculous event of your lifetime.
What will we tell people when we get home? How can people possibly understand this? Everyone knew they had to resume adulthood in a few hours via the flight home in the afternoon.
Here you are, getting knee deep in Bud Light, doing all this awesome, crazy off-the-wall stuff and you almost forgot that you were in a mountain resort surrounded by some straight up beautiful views and amazing scenery.
With that in mind, Oscar and I took a lift ride up the mountain.
What could go wrong? Two dudes on an early morning jaunt into nature. Within ten seconds of entering the ski lift, we both knew it was the worst decision ever.
When the guy in charge of the lift secured us in our lift (which was like a 10-inch wide bench with no elbow room), he forgot to pull the security bar down. #NoBar.
Here we are, dangling 100-plus feet over the side of mountain, moving in slow motion, with about two miles to go. We both clung to our seats. It was the purest, longest lasting feeling of fear I have ever experienced. There was nothing we could do except talk about our inane plans for the upcoming week (“Uh, yeah, so I’m getting a haircut on Tuesday afternoon. Can’t wait, man.”), trying to distract ourselves. #WhenUpForWhateverGoesWrong.
When we got to the top, we decided to walk the nearly two hours back to the bottom. It was a decision I’d make again on this very day. While we were walking, the Mardi Gras Brunch was happening — the grand finale. Whatever, USA was officially closed.
We made it back and ate some food, had a few Bud Lights, said some goodbyes and that was it.
I googled “Bud Light Whatever Commercial” to see the purported latest commercial based on the weekend spent recording footage, and stumbled across a link from Bud Light called “Whatever USA Rules.” Apparently, there must have been some. But within the actual town itself, there was only one strict rule: be #UpForWhatever.
Here’s the video recap of the weekend from Bud Light:
I’ve been fortunate to experience some amazing events, like all-access at the 2013 ESPY Awards, a trip to the Daytona 500 earlier this year for Kobalt, and a trip to Florida to ride BMX with professionals.
Whatever, USA was the absolute best weekend I’ve ever experienced. So don’t blame your mom for being #UpForWhatever. It was a different time, a different era.
Besides, there’s a one in 2,000-plus chance your dad could be the Mayor.