Special Events

In 2008, the Special Events team produced or assisted with the following gatherings:

  • Art Lounge Artist Mixer, January 25, 2008
  • In collaboration with the Regional Committee, the Regional Rep & Staff Mixer on February 16, 2008
  • The Burnal Equinox Flambé Lounge, March 8, 2008
  • Together with the Volunteer Resources Team, the American Dream House open house, April 12, 2008 and the June 14th BBQ-A-Noobie Community Picnic in Golden Gate Park
  • Precompression Flambé Lounge, June 20, 2008
  • Desert Art Preview, July 17, 2008
  • No Spectators Weekend, which included a Costume & Clothing Swap + Art Bike Decorating Workshop July 26th; the Annual Burning Man pARTiciPARADE! July 27th, and Burning Man Story Night, on July 31st
  • The 9th Annual Decompression Heat the Street FaIRE!, October 12th, 2008
  • Many of us also helped the Black Rock Arts Foundation with both their Flip Your Lid and ARTumnal Gathering benefits on April 17th and November 22nd
  • Finally, as part of our new workshop series, we hosted a January “Career Workshop for Burners in a Cookie-Cutter World” led by burner and job search guru, Leslie Ayers; an April art bike workshop hosted by Bobalou; and two knitting workshops in March hosted by our very own Crimson Rose, Art Director and Burning Man Board Member.

This year’s event plan was similar to last year’s, with the addition of three more workshops and support for BRAF’s Fall fundraiser. Some events were very well attended and others not, which has us thinking about what the right kinds of gatherings are for our community, times of year, and how best to encourage greater collaboration, art, mentoring, learning and fun!

At the end of 2007, the team met to make recommendations and create a proposed event plan for the year. We kicked the year off using that plan as a tool for discussion about what community gatherings people most wanted to see again or create anew. Then, in our February “Open Call For Participation Planning Meeting”, the monthly team meeting schedule was published and people had an opportunity to sign up for ongoing team roles or help with a specific event. They could also propose a new event or workshop as we brainstormed about how our team could best serve the Bay Area community and the Burning Man ethos.

We continue to improve our documentation, communication, mentoring and delegation, but more needs to be done, including customizing information tools so our team can work more effectively.

For those interested in working with the Special Events team, we are looking for a second performer liaison, someone to help with event announcements, a co-Volunteer Coordinator and people experienced with event production and logistics — but we are open to all levels of interest and experience.


ART LOUNGE Open House, Mixer for Artists
January 25, 2008

The mission of this event is to create an opportunity for artists to engage one another and share ideas regarding concepts and possible collaborations. To help cross-pollinate the brains and perspectives, the Special Events team created colored name tags that indicated the name of the project/artist/role to help people with different areas of expertise connect.

March 8, 2008

About 900 people attended this lively Flambe Lounge to celebrate the mid-point in the burning year. Some complained it was hot and crowded, but it was the best venue option the team could find in the city. It grows harder to find affordable venues that are large enough to accommodate our numbers and creative range of expression … but that’s a good challenge to have, right? For invite and participating artists, see: Burnal Equinox Flambé Lounge

April 12, 2008

Building on the success of last year’s Green House, the Special Events Team and Volunteer Resource Team collaborated to provide a showcase for playa projects, theme camp/technology displays, Burning Man department presentations and an All-American potluck BBQ! Information and inventions on display included novel solutions for gray water evaporation and how to make décor out of trash and unwanted clothing. Our team added a costume swap and bike repair workshop to the day, in addition to helping with set-up, the schedule of events, and Leave No Trace.

June 20, 2008

Shameless Heather Emcees

Shameless Heather Emcees

Precompression is a forum for theme camps and artists to showcase their plans for Burning Man. This one was also an event where the DJ and dance community could really shine, as it took place at the 1015 Folsom nightclub, with over three floors and four different sound environments. It reunited our diverse community for a full night of interactive theme camps, live performances, Burning Man Department info tables and plenty of late night dancing. There was also a full range of circus, cabaret and music acts ranging from the clown antics of Gooferman, to the marching band samba beats of Loyd Family Players, to stunning performances by aerial circus performers studying at the SF Circus Center.

July 17, 2008

Artists planning projects for Burning Man offered insight into their creative processes and gave sneak previews of projects in-progress. Some also used the opportunity to find last minute volunteers. 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, year-round.

Primary speakers and projects discussed were: Mike Thielvoldt and Lira Filippini (Lepidodgera); Michael Emery (You Are All So Many of Me); Gene and Naomi Cooper (Heart of Burning Man); Jared Gallardo (The Amazing Jellyfish from the Year 12,000); Rhilip Raiser and Arthuer Rodriguez (Babylon); Dadara (Checkpoint Dreamyourtopia); False Profit Labs (Pyrocardium and Hydrogen Economy); Lee Sonkio and Coreyfro (SWARM); Flaming Lotus Girls (Mutopia); and Tucker Teutsch (Basura Sagrada).

July 26-31, 2008

To celebrate NO SPECTATORS DAY on July 31, 2008 in San Francisco, the Special Events Team planned a Costume & Clothing Swap + Art Bike Decorating and Repair day on Saturday July 26th; the 5th Annual Burning Man pARTiciPARADE! on July 27th; and a Burning Man Story Night, July 31, 2008.

The festivities on July 26th included crafting tables, sewing machines, a bike repair area, and a massive pile of clothing and costume components participants brought to swap and re-invent. DJ Justin Credible played while participants prepared mobile art and materials for the pARTiciPARADE!


Helen and $teven high-stepping down Haight Street

Helen and $teven high-stepping down Haight Street

This has to be the best kept secret event we do. This fifth annual, mobile-art-pedestrian parade originated at Buena Vista Park and included only about 20 participants who came on foot, stilts, and roller skates, accompanied by art, kazoos, acoustic instruments, colorful signs, and absurd, wonderful, costume creations! Attendance was half what we had last year, which was disappointing for such an “only in SF” and quintessentially Burning Man event.

Participants marched up Haight Street on the sidewalk and stopped at several points along the way to recruit bystanders to join the fun. After the “Bubble Wrap Freestyle Olympic Games” 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 Aquari-UMS” 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 The 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 park in truly unexpected ways. But with so few people attending we wonder if this event is serving a community need. Some think it’s just a lame name and we’ve under-promoted it; others think three events so close to Burning Man is too many at a time when people are focused on preparing for the playa. Expect a change in name and/or a recombination of these July events, but mind you—We’ll be back!

SF DECOMPRESSION: 9th Annual Heat the Street FaIRE!
October 12, 2008

More than 7,000 people created this spectacular annual Street FaIRE! Once again held on Indiana Street, we had the greatest number of theme camps, art and performers to date and the street was chock-full of interactive art, music and wildly diverse performances. Decompression has become a grand showcase for our community’s art and culture, and continues to evolve as a meeting place and proof that what happens in Black Rock City also has a place in cities around the world!

One challenge we experienced is that our gate team was pushed to the limit at times, as people came in larger numbers earlier in the day. And while we can produce Decompression responsibly and are welcome back at this location, it’s a good time to consider alternative locations — ideally somewhere we can accommodate more participation.

Some specific ideas we implemented that made Decompression run smoothly:

  • An updated Decompression survival guide to educate people about challenges, commitments to neighbors, and rules — which differ from the playa.
  • Greening Decompression by using biodiesel, using compostables and initiating composting. We hope to build on these improvements.
  • Improved to-scale maps, which we released in advance to the public for the second year in a row — along with the stage schedules.
  • We added a spoken word/acoustic and jazz stage at 22nd Street, which allowed us to accommodate even more performers. But we reduced the number of loud sound theme camps to allow for another conversation-friendly zone.
  • Closing performance stages in a sequential way starting at one end of the event and moving toward 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. There was also greater decentralization and more sub-team development.

What Worked For ALL Special Events in 2008:

  • The range of events — from free to affordably priced; large to small; dance to conversation-friendly; and workshop/lecture to wacky and all ages!
  • The open call for participation meeting in February brought new energy, ideas, and members to our team.
  • Having consistent team members from year to year who know what their role is.
  • Continued delegation and pairing new people with existing team members to encourage mentoring and retain team knowledge should someone leave the team.
  • Event mission statements, role documents, volunteer contact lists, the event timeline, and full year team meeting schedule—all helped get the team on the same page and working toward common goals to arrive at deadlines earlier.
  • Burning Man continued to maintain positive working relationships with neighbors, city officials, and the SF Fire Department on behalf of artists.
  • These Special Events are becoming showcases for Burning Man culture and increasingly showcase new art works, which exhibit increasing levels of “radical collaboration.” We helped cover the costs to restore numerous works of art for Decompression and also invited people from the City and Bay Area art community to see and consider the art for public placement.
  • Last year our team really gelled. This year we maintained what we have built over time.

What Didn’t Work Well:

  • Venue size and cost restrictions.
  • We find we must keep turning to traditional club venues in order to find affordable venue options, but the team is wanting to create gatherings that move beyond what “normal” venues can accommodate and do more to inspire great art.
  • Special Events needs to implement data management tech solutions so we can share information effectively among our team members and simplify our confirmation and list management processes.
  • Having events in July is taxing on members of the team that also have playa responsibilities, so we are considering moving, reinventing and consolidating our July events.

Key Lessons Learned:

  • Planning our events earlier and locking in venues 12-24 months in advance.
  • The number of events was appropriate for this year’s team. It would have been difficult to do any more. Yet we want to do new and different kinds of gatherings and we are considering which events to continue/discontinue and what new community experiences we might create.
  • 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.
  • We need to increase communication and information sharing among various sub-teams.
  • The community consistently responds to calls for assistance and necessary changes in behavior; and it takes a community to pull off such consistently fantastic and inspirational gatherings.

DRAFT 2009 EVENT PLANS (as of December 15, 2008)

The following events and dates are being considered:

  • Esprit Park Community Gardening Day — January 10, 2009 – firm
  • Art Lounge, artist mixer at BMHQ, January 22, 2009 – firm
  • Burnal Equinox Flambé Lounge — February 28, 2009 – firm
  • Burning Man Open House — April 4, 2009 — Pending office move
  • Precompression Flambé Lounge, June 6, 2009 — firm
  • Desert Art Preview, June 25, 2009 — new date
  • Costume and Clothing Swap + bike repair, July 25 2009 — Location TBA
  • pARTiciPARADE! July 25 or 31, 2009 — TBD, but reinvented
  • Burning Stories Night, July 31, 2009 with more staff involvement – firm
  • The SF Decompression Heat The Street FaIRE! October 11, 2009 — Date and location TBD
  • Esprit Park Planting, December 2009 or January 2010 – firm

We also plan to add more workshops. Check the Special Events section of the Web site for final dates and details. If you live in the Bay Area and would like to help with year round events, e-mail flambelounge@ burningman.com and join us for a team meeting. We encourage you to keep the fire burning all year long in your unique way!

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