Special Events

The Burning Man Special Events Team builds year-round community in the Bay Area (particularly SF). They also inspire great art and participatory art experiences by providing forums to find collaborators and share creative ideas, knowledge, skills, and resources, and provide opportunities for new participants to learn how to participate in our community and prepare participants for the playa. On an economically sustainable basis, Special Events supports Black Rock Arts Foundation (BRAF), Burners Without Borders, and Community Services.

In 2006, the Special Events team produced the following public community gatherings:

  • Burnal Equinox Open House & Artist Thank You Mixer, March 3, 2006;
  • The 2nd Annual Sk’Bowling Flambé Lounge, April 8, 2006;
  • ART ON FIRE!: The 1st San Francisco Fire Arts Expo, May 18, 19 and 20, 2006;
  • Precompression Flambé Lounge, June 3, 2006;
  • Desert Art Preview, July 12, 2006;
  • No Spectators weekend, which included the Annual Burning Man pARTiciPARADE! July 29, 2006, and Burning Man Story Night, July 30, 2006;
  • The 7th Annual Decompression Heat the Street FaIRE! October 8, 2006.
  • Members of our team also collaborated with the Spark Club Team on the June 17, 2006 BBQ-A-Newbie Community Picnic in Golden Gate Park.

A woman on a stool presents information on a tackboard to a dozen or so attendees.  Photos of fire arts add splashes of color and interest to the meeting room walls.This was a major year for the Special Events team. Our process was made more open to public participation than ever, starting in January with a community planning meeting, the creation of event proposal forms, a public calendar and hand-out for the entire year, the creation of a roles document for each event, a process for people to sign up for roles in advance, and the mentoring of, and delegating to, new people on the team. There were monthly meetings and weekly meetings pre-events; more meetings than ever before! Special Events also started working more closely with the Volunteer Resource Team, and created a team announce email list. All contributed to the success of this year and our ability to do more events in the service of the Bay Area creative community.

Even with more team members and people sharing the work load, this was an extremely demanding year, requiring knowledge transfer, greater communication, process documentation, and mentoring. Events needed to be planned farther in advance, projects delegated with status checks and one-on-one time, as well as the usual full team meetings. Though time and energy-intensive, this year has been a necessary step in team development. Some fantastic new team members have joined us and are already taking things to new heights!


BURNAL EQUINOX Open House & Artist Thank You
March 3, 2006

A row of standing people examine a long banner, spread across the floor along a wall.  Images of art projects are laid out along the banner.To celebrate the mid-point in the burning year, Special Events invited artists to the Burning Man office in San Francisco for a social gathering and thank you party. It was extremely well-attended—downright crowded—and many artists brought models of projects they proposed for Burning Man. In hindsight, this gathering foreshadowed the epic art of Burning Man 2006!

SK’BOWLING Flambé Lounge
April 8, 2006

This was the second year for this fun-loving, black-light bowling and costumed ice capades social at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, South of Market, San Francisco.

A short-haired woman, wearing a pink fur top and white fur pants shows form and style as she throws her bowling ball.In the bowling alley, DJ Pantshead spun musical mash-ups fit for phantasmagoric-color bowling under black light. Playa trivia was randomly announced, and participants were asked to change lanes at regular intervals to meet and bowl with neighboring bowlers. The intention was to encourage everyone to play one big messy game together and to pay less attention to scoring than to meeting new bowling partners. Indeed, everyone lost score and had a great time doing it!

Three male judges hold up cards announcing their scores.  The leftmost, wearing a tiger costume (sans head), holds an upside-down '10.'  The second, in winter attire, offers a '9.'  The third, in a pale blue fur suit, also offers a '9.'In the ice rink, mad-capped skating fun was in full swing! Otis Fodder of the Bran Flakes and Neon Bunny started the night off with vintage moog synthesizer ice-skating music, and crowd-pleasers like Skating Away and The Funky Chicken! The second half of the night featured music from the Godfather of Roller Disco and Burning Man theme camp Black Rock Roller Disco. Participant Dizzy Hips was particularly remarkable as he hula-hoped, on skates, to the beat!

Unfortunately, for the second year in a row under 200 people participated and venue rental costs exceeded revenues. Since an additional draw back is that neither the bowling alley or ice skating rink venues can accommodate theme camps or art, we are unlikely to repeat this event a third year.

ART ON FIRE!: The 2006 San Francisco Fire Arts Expo
May 18-20, 2006

A shroud of flame dances around a copper-colored heart, about the size of a cantalope.Fire is near and dear to Burning Man and Special Events wanted to showcase the most dedicated and innovative artists working in the medium in San Francisco, where Burning Man began. This was as much a lobbying effort on behalf of fire artists as it was an exhibition of fire art, and we hoped to share fire safety practices and gain support for fire artists who still have a difficult time attaining permits, insurance, and city support to share their work with the public. The greatest challenge is finding a venue that can safely accommodate fire art, so the Special Events team and Burning Man were thrilled when Park and Recreation representatives at Candlestick Park were hosted the exhibition in their parking lot.

The Fire Arts Expo was a three-night exciting and incendiary exhibition of innovative and inspiring fire art. The launch of this landmark event was the first time the City of San Francisco opened its arms to provide a forum that recognizes artists working in this exciting and unique medium!

A man and woman kneel, facing each other, with burning poi hanging from their arms, stretched out to their sides.The Expo was a curated exhibition featuring fire sculpture and choreographed performances by exciting and cutting-edge fire artists and creative collaborators. It included: Xeno, Vau De Vire Society, THERM, The Flaming Lotus Girls, Nate Smith, Jack Schroll, Christopher Schardt, SaDa Fuego, Pyro Spectaculars, Linda Robertson, Pyronauts, Primal Fire, Meghan Pike, Nocturnal Sunshine, The Nekyia, Los Sueños del Fuego, Roger Lai, Laird, Marisa Lenhardt, Karl Nettmann, mN8Fx, Alan Macy, Loyd Family Players, Robert Kilpatrick, Scot Jenerik, InterKonnected, Hunter, Bob Hofmann, Flame Gypsy & Sexy Bitch, Justin Gray, Wally Glenn, Gamelan X, Charles A. Gadeken, Orion Fredericks, Liquid Fire, Richard Friedberg, Fire Arts Collective, The Crucible, Coven Fire Troupe, Controlled Burn, Bill Codding, Paul Cesewski, Carpetbag Brigade, Dan Cantrell, BomTribe, Bad Kitties, members of the Burning Man Fire Conclave, and more.

For many years Burning Man wanted to host an event in San Francisco that show-cased fire art and brought the fire art community and fire officials together. The event was a great success in forging relationships between responsible fire artists and the San Francisco Fire Department (SFFD). In addition to the support of the SFFD, the exposition also enjoyed the support of Mayor Gavin Newsome’s office, the Entertainment Commission, Parks & Recreation, the Bayview Police Department and the Bayview Heights Neighborhood Association. Just a few of the many positive outcomes of this event were: it provided an opportunity for fire artists to meet one another and share knowledge; SFFD officials met responsible artists and learned how each fire sculpture worked and the safety precautions associated with each piece; we helped fire artists replace and upgrade their valves and connections to be compliant with national safety standards; and we encouraged higher levels of professionalism, and safety, as we shared fire safety information with participants. Not least of all, everyone had a fantastic and positive experience.

Regrettably, rainy weather and high production costs associated with making a fully compliant and safe event, led to financial loss. Still, it was well worth doing just to see fire artists and fire officials eating dinner together and the looks of joy on the faces of everyone who participated in the Thursday night “Mini-Man” fireworks display and the beautiful fire processions at the end of each night! WOW! Let us once again sincerely thank all the fire artists who inspire and the SFFD and city officials who supported this event. We WILL be doing this again and we have even grander plans for the future!

June 3, 2006

In June, 2006 we responded to community feedback and reintroduced Flambé Lounge to great fanfare. The Special Events Team decided this Flambé should be one that especially allowed theme camps and artists to showcase their plans for Burning Man and that the DJ and dance community would enjoy together. It took place at the Pound and reunited our diverse community for a full night of interactive theme camp fun, live performances, positive, magical energy and late night dancing. Everyone was thrilled with the event and we plan to repeat it in 2007.

July 12, 2006

The Crucible of Oakland once again hosted the Desert Art Preview. More than a dozen artists planning projects for Burning Man offered insight into their creative processes and spoke about their art and the challenges associated with making art for the Black Rock Desert. They also gave sneak previews of 2006 Burning Man projects in-progress. This year’s ceremonies included an art overview by members of Burning Man’s Art Council and a presentation on the mission of The Black Rock Arts Foundation (BRAF), which funds off-playa interactive art.

Speakers and projects discussed included: Nicole Aptekar (2piR); Gene Cooper (YOU x 360); Stefano Corazza (A Field of Sunflower Robots); Bill Codding (Burninator); Zach and John (Kinetic Steamworks); Sondra Carr (Facing Our Fears); Patrick Shearn (Hope Flower and Fear Trap); Dan Dunkle and team (Conexus Cathedral). It was an intriguing night with a lively question and answer period and a tour of The Crucible arts education facility. Barb Traub’s photographs of Burning Man were also shown and Barb was on-site with copies of her newly published book that showcases ten years of Burning Man photographs.

July 29-31, 2006

To celebrate NO SPECTATORS DAY on July 31, 2006 in San Francisco, the Special Events Team planned the 3rd Annual Burning Man pARTiciPARADE! on July 29, 2006 and a Burning Man Story Night, July 31, 2006.


This was the third annual, mobile-art-and-pedestrian parade. It originated at Buena Vista Park and included approximately fifty participants on foot, stilts, and roller skates, accompanied by mobile art, kazoos, acoustic instruments, art signs, and absurd, wonderful, costume-creations.

Participants marched up Haight Street on the sidewalk, accompanied by members of the Burning Man Marching Band, and stopped at several points along the way to recruit bystanders to join in the fun, and to create and share art along the way. After creating an interactive “rolling” art mural on the hill at Buena Vista Park, the first stop was a kick line in front of the giant leg that hangs from the window of a Haight Street boutique. The second stop, at the corner of Haight and Ashbury, featured flower petal throwing while singing “This is the dawning of the age of Aquariums [sic],” in honor of aquarium-like boutiques and chain-store windows that now line historic Haight Street.

After several surprise stops along the way, the parade met up with theme camp Black Rock Roller Disco to shake some serious booty and to create a massive chalk mural. To cap off the day’s events the event finished in Golden Gate Park with a ride on the animal carousel. Another pARTiciPARADE! well done! HOORAY!

SF DECOMPRESSION: 6th Annual Heat the Street FaIRE!
October 8, 2006

A smiling woman in a silver halter and white pants spins a hoop high in the air around her upstretched hand for a crowd circled around her.Over 7,000 people created this spectacular annual Street FaIRE! Held on Indiana Street, between Mariposa and 22nd Streets, inside Cafe Cocomo and throughout Esprit Park, this was our best-organized Decompression to date—a pleasure for participants and organizers and a significant triumph over the challenges of Decompression 2005. As always, the stars of Decompression were the participants—of all creative shapes and sizes. The list of scheduled and roving performers, artists and theme camps is far too long to include here. Suffice it to say, it was amazing and inspiring and we LOVE everyone who made it so!

Although Special Events decided to scale back on fire art—having done ART ON FIRE! earlier in the year—the variety and amount of non-fire art was fantastic, the range of performances was stellar, and theme camps went all out! However, unlike 2005—when we were surprised by a surge in attendance for Burning Man’s 20th anniversary year—everything ran according to plan!

Whereas the 2005 Decom posed special challenges associated with higher attendance and an increase in first-time attendees, 2006 addressed challenges—including those associated with long lines, rogue sound systems, traffic flow, confusing door lists, radio problems, and security. The 2006 event was, in contrast to 2005, a model of a picture-perfect event: professionally run with a staff more appropriate to the size of the gathering and orderly processes prevailed. Special Events needed to take the production to the next level and did, a job well done.

The success was due in large part to the growth of the Special Events team and a greater degree of decentralization. Automation also simplified the booking and confirmation processes for theme camps and performers. Efforts to educate participants about acceptable sound levels, respect for the renovated park and neighbors, and traffic flow, all paid off. Other changes that helped were vests for Fire Safety and Block Hosts that ensured police and fire personnel recognized staff. Also, dedicated door staff provided a consistent and orderly enter and exit process. One happy result: no incidents or damaged equipment.

Some specific ideas we implemented that made Decompression run better:

  • A DECOMmandments Decompression survival guide to educate people about challenges, commitments to neighbors, and rules for Decompression—which differ from those on-playa.
  • A “special handling” entry gate for families with small children, elderly and handicapped attendees, neighborhood residents, staff, and special invited guests.
  • More managers and “troubleshooters” to solve problems for larger numbers of participants.
  • Block monitors to watch and manage activities on each block. We also increased our Ranger and security presence
  • An improved, detailed Positions Map
  • An automated confirmation and door list process, which helped standardize information about entry and the timing of what groups needed to do during the event and end of night.
  • Decentralized and earlier door list data entry; better management of the entry/exit process with the addition of dedicated gate managers who came to early training sessions and worked the gates day and night.
  • Closing performance stages in a timed and sequential way starting at 22nd Street and moving toward Mariposa, where the last stage ended at 11pm at the side of the street fair with the least impact on neighbors.

What Worked For ALL Special Events in 2006:

  • The attendance and spirit of all events was consistently fantastic!
  • The open meeting in January, 2006 brought new energy, ideas, and members to the Special Events team which meant more events than previous years.
  • More delegation, with new people assuming sub-team lead roles, working independently.
  • For each event a roles document, volunteer contact list, timeline, budget, To Do and Materials Needed lists —all helped get the team on the same page and working toward common goals to arrive at deadlines earlier. Still to do: more detailed role descriptions.
  • Burning Man continued to maintain good relationships with neighbors, city officials, and made major in-roads with the San Francisco Fire Department and Mayor’s office on behalf of fire artists.
  • As a result of our excellent work on Decompression, neighbors offered to write a letter praising us to city officials! We felt great about neighborhood clean-up and Esprit Park plantings this year, but that level of recognition and being called “model event producers and good neighbors” was really cause to celebrate!
  • The Special Events are becoming showcases for Burning Man values and art as the Special Events team gets better in their role as responsible event producers.
  • Longstanding members of the team rose to new levels of responsibility and new people were able to step into roles earlier and more successfully.
  • Having a dedicated Volunteer Coordinator helped tremendously.
  • Looking back at last year’s Afterburn, the team accomplished ALL its goals and addressed the key challenges outlined. It is truly a year to celebrate our achievements and build on them!

What Didn’t Work Well:

  • Venue size restrictions still present a challenge as we seek to do large Flambé Lounges and try to find a convenient venue that can safely accommodate fire and large scale art.
  • The Fire Arts Expo lost money, rather than make funds we hoped would benefit the Black Rock Arts Foundation. This was due to high safety production costs, rainy weather, and lack of mass transit to the venue. Special Events will take a year off from the The Fire Arts Expo event and look for another suitable venue, and apply lessons from 2006 to a 2008 event.
  • SK’BOWLING failed to attract very many participants for a second year, so we question its value as a community event. Special Events will replace SK’BOWLING with something new in 2007.
  • Special Events was too reliant on Jackrabbit Speaks for promotion; in 2007 we are likely to seek other ways to get the word out to the Bay Area community.
  • Too many meetings that were not effective. Special Events is planning for sub-teams, with smaller working meetings.
  • Special Events could benefit from tech support and seeks someone who has tech expertise to help maintain the database, and Special Events areas of the Extranet and Website.
  • Special Events could improve upon photo and video documentation, and editing, of events.

Key Lessons Learned:

  • Restoring Flambé Lounge made a lot of people happy. The new Flambé Lounges provided a way for people to meet, for artists and theme camps to find collaborators, and to showcase and exchange new ideas. There was a need for Flambé Lounge, after all!
  • The earlier planning Special Events gave to fire art made a huge difference and has become a new standard.
  • The Special Events team met the goal of bringing people together year-round to foster community and the increased number of events was appropriate for this year.
  • To do any more, the Special Events team must grow further, with an expanded base of experts in all areas, and delegation to keep things fun, safe, and to avoid burn-out.
  • As a result of publicly communicating challenges faced with Decompression, the community responded. Ask (early enough) and you shall receive!
  • Members of the Special Events team feel a tremendous sense of accomplishment at having produced such memorable gatherings and we look forward to doing even more in 2007!


The following events are currently scheduled for 2007:

  • Art Lounge, artist mixer at BMHQ, January 26, 2007
  • Burnal Equinox Flambé Lounge & BRAF Fundraiser, March 3, 2007
  • Burning Man Open House & Green House – April 14, 2007
  • Precompression Flambé Lounge, June 2, 2007
  • Desert Art Preview, July 19, 2007
  • Costume and Clothing Swap + possible bike repair, July 28, 2007
  • pARTiciPARADE! July 29, 2007
  • Burning Stories Night, July 31, 2007
  • The SF Decompression Heat The Street FaIRE! October 7, 2007
  • Dogpatch Neighborhood Clean-up, October 8, 2007

We also plan to add various workshops and smaller community events as team members wish to lead them.

We encourage you to keep the fire burning all year long in your unique way! Please check back at the Special Events section of the Web site. If you live in the Bay Area and would like to help with year round events, e-mail flambelounge@burningman.com.

Submitted by,
$teven Ra$pa
Special Events Producer, Arts Advocate & Regional Outreach