Special Events

In 2007, the Special Events team produced the following public community gatherings:

  • Art Lounge Artist, Scientist & Environmentalist Mixer, January 26, 2007;
  • The Burnal Equinox Flambé Lounge, March 3, 2007;
  • Green House open house, April 14, 2007;
  • Precompression Flambé Lounge, June 9, 2007;
  • Desert Art Preview, July 19, 2007;
  • No Spectators Weekend, which included a Costume & Clothing Swap + Art Bike Decorating Workshop July 28, 2007; the Annual Burning Man pARTiciPARADE! July 29, 2007, and Burning Man Story Night, July 31, 2007;
  • The 8th Annual Decompression Heat the Street FaIRE! October 7, 2007.
  • Members of our team also collaborated with the Regional Committee to create a Regional Rep & Staff Mixer on February 16th; with the Spark Club Team on the June 16, 2007 BBQ-A-Noobie Community Picnic in Golden Gate Park; and assisted with the Flip Your Lid Black Rock Arts Foundation benefit on April 19th.And one of our team members led a Framing Workshop for art and photography.

In 2007 our team really matured with many long-time members and several new ones stepping into leadership roles. Our process and planning was refined, and co-leads were added to alleviate the burden of a full year of events and to encourage greater collaboration, mentoring, learning and fun!

Once again our January “Open Call For Participation Planning Meeting” kicked the year off and started a dialogue about what community gatherings people most wanted to create and see come to fruition. People could sign up for ongoing team roles or to help with a specific event listed on the proposed calendar. They could also propose a new event or workshop of their own using an event proposal sheet. We brainstormed about how our team could best serve the Bay Area community, and we shared some key successes and challenges from 2006. Documents defining roles for each event were handed out, and proved invaluable as a planning and delegation tool throughout the year. There were monthly meetings and weekly meetings before the event, but we managed to cut the length of our meetings down compared to 2006- a function of working better together. In 2007 the Special Events Team also worked closely with the Volunteer Resource Team, the Black Rock Arts Foundation, Burners Without Borders, the Green Man team, and the Regional Committee to support one another’s events and objectives. All contributed to the success of this year and our ability to do more events in the service of our Bay Area community and the Burning Man ethos.

We continue to improve our documentation, communication, mentoring and delegation. In the year ahead we hope to customize database and information tools to help the team work even more effectively. Some fantastic new team members have joined us and are already taking things to new heights! There are still a few ongoing team roles, so contact us if you are dedicated, like what you read here and want to know how YOU can help create our year-round community events in the Bay Area.


ART LOUNGE Open House, Mixer for Artists, Scientists and Green Experts –
January 26, 2007

The mission of this event was to create an opportunity for artists, scientists and environmentalists to engage one another and share ideas regarding conceptual and artistic points of beneficial convergence. Artists and ‘green’ experts planning projects for Burning Man 2007 gave a brief description of their project and invited others to seek them out to learn more and offer ideas about how to green projects. To help cross-pollinate the brains and perspectives of those in the room, the Special Events team created colored name tags that indicated the name of the project and whether the person was an artist, a scientist or environmentalist. In many cases people ended up wearing several colors, but the name tags were a very effective way to help people with different areas of expertise connect. Looking back on that event now it is clear that some very important matches were made that night which led to better and more evolved projects on and off the playa.


Flambé Lounge – March 3, 2007

To celebrate the mid-point in the burning year, the team organized a Flambé Lounge, which was also a partial fundraiser for the Black Rock Arts Foundation art grant program for art installed off-playa. This Flambé Lounge was added to the event plan for the year at the request of burners who came to our January planning meeting and requested we have a Flambé Lounge earlier in the year. About 800 people attended this event over the course of the evening and end of night things erupted into the street, with a massive light saber battle that capped the night off with a joyfully wacky crescendo!



open house – April 14, 2007

In lieu of our usual Volunteer Recruitment open house, in 2007 the Special Event Team, Green Man Team and Volunteer Resource Team collaborated to reinvent this annual tradition by adding ‘green’ art and technology displays, performances and a BBQ. Members of Hoodville, one of the many groups that make up the Alternative Energy Zone in Black Rock City, brought their Death Ray 3000 solar cooker and served up hotdogs roasted in the heat of the sun. Information and inventions on display included novel solutions to gray water evaporation and the Chlorophyll Collective demonstrating an early and very impressive prototype of their algae-powered playa project.


Flambé Lounge – June 9, 2007

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 get to shine at. It took place at Club 550, which had two levels, four different sound environments and a dance floor large enough for the Black Rock Roller Disco to kick the night off with a ROLL! The Precompression event reunited our diverse community for a full night of interactive theme camp fun, live performances, positive, magical energy and late night dancing. A memorable highlight of the night was the truly amazing TRASHion Show, which featured wearable art fashioned from recycled materials by various Bay Area artists and clothing designers. It was so resoundingly successful we repeated it later in the year on-playa in the Center Camp Café and at the SF Decompression. Each time was a real crowd pleaser and ended with a People’s Fashion show, where anyone could strut their trash on the catwalk!

The team found it challenging working with Club 550’s security policy, and it felt a little constricting to be in a club environment, but it helped that we could go late and had an outdoor area for art cars, theme camps and open air lounging.


BMHQ – July 19, 2007

This year we hosted this event at Burning Man Headquarters which added to the interest and high level of attendance. Artists planning projects for Burning Man offered insight into their creative processes and spoke about their inspirations and the challenges associated with making art for the Black Rock Desert in the year of the Green Man. They also gave sneak previews of projects in-progress and some used the opportunity to find collaborators. 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 interactive art off-playa (no, they don’t fund art at Burning Man; they do it everywhere else!).

Speakers and projects discussed included: Dr. Seano (Green Shoes project); Crimson Rose and Tom Price (Green Exposition Space beneath the Man); Sean Orlando (Steampunk Treehouse); Bill Codding (Burninator X); the Living Pulse team; Jessica Reeder and Jennifer Forbes (Refoliation); Melissa Alexander (the Black Rock Arts Foundation); Dan Das Mann and Karen Cusolito (Crude Awakening); Dann Davis (Mechabolic); David Best (Temple of Forgiveness)


July 28-31, 2007

To celebrate NO SPECTATORS DAY on July 31, 2007 in San Francisco, the Special Events Team planned a Costume & Clothing Swap + Art Bike Decorating and Repair day on Saturday July 28th; the 4th Annual Burning Man pARTiciPARADE!  July 29th; and a Burning Man Story Night, July 31, 2007.

The festivities on July 28th were held in the Burning Man Headquarters warehouse and back lot. The event included crafting tables, sewing machines, a bike repair area, and a massive pile of clothing and costume components participants brought to swap and re-create together. The band TripKnight played in the back parking lot and participants prepared mobile art and materials for the pARTiciPARADE! the next day.


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

Participants marched up Haight Street on the sidewalk, accompanied by the mad-capped antics of Fou Fou HA! and stopped at several points along the way to recruit bystanders to join in the fun. 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 legs that hang from the window of a Haight Street boutique. The second stop, at the corner of Haight and Ashbury, featured flower petal throwing and singing “This is the dawning of the age of Aquariums [sic],” in mock-honor of aquarium-like boutiques and chain-store windows that now line historic Haight Street.

After several surprise stops throughout Golden Gate Park, the parade met up with theme camp Black Rock Roller Disco to rollerskate and celebrate! For many this event is closest to the spirit of Burning Man and brings its ethos to the streets and the park in truly unexpected ways. A real highlight this year was the “make your own monster from the black lagoon pit stop” in Golden Gate Park: participants were incredibly imaginative and in no time at all there were mazillions of little monsters made out of various materials brought, found and gathered in the area. Needless to say, the “Monster Fashion Show” was sublime!


8th Annual Heat the Street FaIRE! October 7, 2007

Some 7,000 people once again created this spectacular annual Street FaIRE! Held on Indiana Street, between Mariposa and 22nd Streets, inside Cafe Cocomo and throughout Esprit Park. This year we built on the planning successes of 2006 and added more theme camps and art cars than any other year. The street was well appointed with a diverse range of interactive theme camps, music, art and performances. As always, the stars of Decompression were the participants—of all creative shapes and sizes. Special thanks to all the volunteers and year-round Special Events team members, the artists, theme camps and performers—all of whom made this year so FANTASTIC!

Decompression has become a grand showcase for our community’s art and culture, as well as a reunion and block party for all our neighbors and friends in the Dogpatch neighborhood. It remains an important way we thank our year-round staff and volunteers—especially our dedicated clean-up crew that typically returns to SF the day before Decompression after finishing playa restoration—but Decompression is now so much more and continues to evolve as a meeting place and proof that what happens in Black Rock City also has a place in Black TOP Cities around the world!

The success was due in large part to the continued evolution of the Special Events team and a greater degree of decentralization. Efforts to educate participants about acceptable sound levels, respect for neighbors, and traffic flow, all paid off. Also, dedicated door staff provided a consistent and orderly entry and exit process.

Some specific ideas we implemented that made Decompression run smoothly:

  • Earlier call for participation (starting in June) so we had half of all content in before Burning Man!
  • An updated Decompression survival guide to educate people about challenges, commitments to neighbors, and rules — which differ from those on-playa.
  • Better line and gate management, including additional gate staff during peak periods to keep the lines in and out moving.
  • Improved to-scale maps, which we released in advance to the public for the first time — along with the stage schedules.
  • Better management of transportation, the set-up and break processes, and with entry/exit thanks to dedicated team members and gate managers who came to early training meetings.
  • Closing performance stages in a 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.
  • More team members assumed leadership roles and more people are now familiar with what needs to be done and how.

What Worked For ALL Special Events in 2007:

  • The range of events—from free to affordably priced; large to small; dance to conversation-friendly; and workshop/lecture to wacky and all ages—felt good!
  • The open meeting in January, 2007 once again brought new energy, ideas, and members to the Special Events team.
  • New team members stepped forward to help in the areas of communications, theme camps, gate, transportation and infrastructure.
  • Continued delegation, with new people assuming sub-team lead roles and co-lead pairings working very well.
  • Event mission statements, role documents, volunteer contact lists, the event timeline, budget, and Materials Needed lists — all helped get the team on the same page and working toward common goals to arrive at deadlines earlier — particularly those affecting other teams. We plan to refine these tools and add more.
  • Burning Man continued to maintain positive working relationships with neighbors, city officials, the San Francisco Fire Department and Mayor’s office on behalf of artists.
  • These Special Events are becoming showcases for Burning Man culture and increasingly showcase new art works, which exhibit greater levels of (radical) collaboration.
  • Longstanding members of the team rose to new levels of responsibility and new people were able to step into roles earlier and more successfully.
  • This was the year our team really gelled. We get better and better and there is a strong sense of mutual regard and appreciation for what each of us brings to the mix in our community and on the team.

What Didn’t Work:

  • Venue size and cost restrictions still present a challenge as we seek to do large Flambé Lounges and venues that can safely accommodate fire and large-scale art.
  • We could not find a suitable venue for the SF Fire Arts Expo and decided to postpone it until we find the right location for it in San Francisco.
  • At two of the club venues we organized events in, the community and our team members complained about club security. Despite requests to be civil and be more respectful to participants, club security at both the Precompression and Decompression were rude and unnecessarily forceful. In the case of Decompression, Cocomo club security allegedly injured a participant end of night when they evicted him after our event had ended. Force is unnecessary and we will not stand for it. These ongoing challenges make us reluctant to invite our community into traditional nightclub environments where we do not have full control of the quality of experience we offer our people.
  • Special Events needs better data management tech solutions so we can share information effectively among our geographically dispersed team members and to simplify our confirmation and list management processes. Some members of our team have stepped forward to design a new architecture with Burning Man’s Tech Team, but we can use more tech support and expect to build it internally via our volunteers to support year-round needs.
  • We need to push confirmations and Will Call database entry even earlier.
  • A neighbor complained about someone urinating in their doorway during Decompression and they no longer feel our event belongs in the neighborhood. While a relatively minor incident in an urban setting, such behavior is not acceptable to us and jeopardizes goodwill with our neighbors. Similarly, someone took a piece of artwork from a theme camp at Decompression. Such behavior strikes at the very core of the trust we hold dear. While these are exceptions, we must consider how to educate all participants on the impact of their actions so our community can continue to do what we do best: inspire the world and each other in the very best ways possible!

Key Lessons Learned:

  • The Burnal Equinox Flambe Lounge was a great success and the community expressed unanimous support for a March Flambé Lounge.
  • Planning our events earlier and locking in venues 6-24 months in advance is key to reducing stress and having more fun!
  • The Special Events team met the goal of bringing people together year-round to foster community and invited people into that process throughout the year.
  • The number of events was appropriate for the 2007 team. It would have been difficult to do any more large events without taxing members
  • If members wish to do more, the Special Events team must grow further, with an expanded base of experts in all areas—to keep it all fun, safe, and avoid burn-out.
  • Communicate! We need to increase communication and information sharing among the various sub-teams within Special Events.
  • The community consistently responds to clear calls for assistance and necessary changes in behavior; and it takes a community to pull off such consistently fantastic and inspirational gatherings.

We hope to add more workshops and community events in the New Year and 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 for final dates and information. If you live in the Bay Area and would like to help with year round events, e-mail flambelounge@burningman.org.

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