Participants submitted 503 theme camp registration requests in 2004. The online questionnaire process was not completely smooth due to some glitches on the Burning Man web site. We are sorry that this problem caused some headaches, and we will try to avoid those problems for next year. We increased the number of theme camp placers who communicated with camp representatives before the event in order to improve service via our pre-event email hotline (firstname.lastname@example.org). Most questions were answered within 24 hours.
The number of questionnaires received was about the same as in 2003. We were forced to reject about a dozen submissions because we could not reach a contact person. We did not map about five camps because the submissions requested locations outside the area reserved for theme camps. This number showed some growth from last year.
Two people spent about 140 hours to map theme camps within Black Rock City, but we were able to provide placement for all. The number of large camps and villages grew this year to 30.
Members of the Flag team (or flaggers) measure the space reserved for each theme camp, staking spaces with thousands of little flags under the sun, rain, and winds. Setting those flags correctly is a crucial precaution to avoid space issues when theme camps arrive. Pairs of flaggers completed this enormous task within less than a week. Because the Department of Public Works was ahead of schedule, flagging operations encountered some minor errors and consequent delays. We expect to match our timeline with the DPW’s and finish the job even sooner in 2005.
The early placers carry a booklet of maps for reference while greeting and guiding a constant flow of DPW trucks and other heavy equipment delivering portions of the Black Rock City infrastructure. The team guided placement of 20 shipping containers, 12 Sani-Hut buildings, 15 shade structures, and 6 DPW buildings in 2004. This smooth process contributed to the overall success of building Black Rock City. In 2005, we may arrive earlier to facilitate a seamless rapport with DPW crews.
The process for early arrival was improved from 2003, but it is still not what we would like it to be. Most theme camps understood that early arrival was reserved for a very small number of people who needed extra time to build their projects and permission is granted only in advance. Unfortunately, a few theme camps arrived before they could be admitted, and we were forced to ask them to wait a few days at the Gate before entering the city.
The placement of theme camps on the playa was a very smooth process. The placement team greeted camp members as they arrived and guided them to their locations, explaining the allocated space and helping as much as they could. As usual, theme camps typically brought very nice, creative people who established major components of the Burning Man community. However, some theme camps did not display such a cooperative spirit, especially concerning the Leave No Trace commitment required of every participant. A handful of theme camps also showed unacceptable behavior toward the placement team. One theme camp will not be mapped in 2005 as a result of such behavior. Aside from those little difficulties, the placement of theme camps was a successful part of yet another year’s fun and creativity.
Eric Pouyoul (Frog)