Center Camp Café got going long before we hit the playa in 2013 – we started building it in the spring through Craft Parties in San Francisco. And this year, self-organized crews in Los Angeles and St. Louis took on the task of creating décor elements for the Café. This was a challenging but ultimately successful expansion, which bodes well for making more décor outside of the Bay Area and engaging more far-flung communities of Burners!
The Café expanded its engagement with BRC citizens with the ‘Hospitality Hut’ – a separate information kiosk and shaded space facing the Café on the Center Camp circle, hosting daily coffee shop volunteer trainings, some BRC-focused ‘Q & A’ events, all while gifting hydration. It was a huge undertaking, but worth the effort and a success for a ‘beta test’. More development is in order before we “invite over the whole family”, but this is part of the Café’s commitment to fostering connections and giving new participants the tools to become good citizens of BRC. As a long-range concept, we are exploring how these kinds of “Welcome Wagon” hubs might serve as gathering spots in other parts of BRC.
2013 was our 7th year of composting and recycling as well as making sure our products are organic whenever possible. And – even better – every year we have more participants get on board with “BYOC” or Bring Your Own Cup, which has cut our compostable cup consumption by close to 30%! Let’s make BYOC a tradition for 2014!
Variety is a huge Burner tradition and 2013 did not disappoint – in fact it was above and beyond what we have ever seen in the past. In addition to the tradition of random “Dance Breaks” atop the coffee counters and our annual Marching Band March Off, we had performers of world music, acrobats, circus acts, magic shows, improv, solo instrumental performances, dancers performing to live salsa music, electronic artists with live instrumental accompaniment, thrash metal bands, a capella groups and aerialists performing to live musical acts. There was even a performance art piece that was an AUDIO TIME TRAVEL JOURNEY (with headphones for everyone to experience a personal and communal experience simultaneously)! That’s a lot of stuff under one roof!
That is what makes the Center Camp Cafe Performance Stage something odd and special, the fact that it is a ‘community stage’ and anything can happen up there. In the middle of the night, you may get a person that has never performed in public before, followed immediately by a world class stadium act, with the person following them pulling folks out the audience to accompany them on the drums.
There is also our Spoken Word stage which continues to be popular during both the open mic hours and as host of the Speaker Series, this year titled “Manufacturing Nostalgia” (which was also highlighted on the Performance/Community stage). Conversations from permaculture to spirituality, radicalism and beyond were enjoyed by hundreds.
As for volunteers, we have had more than ever before and are constantly impressed by the skill level and technical savvy of all involved. We could not be more grateful and appreciative of the time and effort people put into making and holding together the Center Camp Cafe spaces during event week!
Of course, nothing is perfect, but we Burners are nothing if not an adaptable tribe: so what if the Marching Band March Off was earlier in the evening than usual this year (we didn’t want folks to have to choose between the stunning amount of fire art happening that evening) – the place was still jammin’ and jumpin’!
And ok, there has never been a Monday exodus without Center Camp Cafe coffee being served since 2000, but when heavy storms threatened to keep us all mired in the muck and we thought it safer to close early, we rallied. So after the Temple burned, we brewed up as much coffee as our serving containers could hold, and GIFTed cups of java goodness to groggy participants who showed up on their way out of Black Rock City. Caffeine prevailed!