Services and infrastructure are provided to Burning Man participants by the Community Services, Communications and Public Works crews, who are managed by team leads reporting to department heads, who are members of the BRC Operations and/or Event Leadership teams. Daily pre-event, leadership briefings are held on site, and are added during the event as needed. Such was the case for Monday’s rain when established weather contingency plans were implemented.
Gerlach-Empire Shuttle Bus
The average ridership of the Gerlach-Empire Shuttle was approximately ten participants per trip, with more people choosing the 10 am and noon shuttles over the afternoon runs. The shuttle depot was given a larger footprint, and our bus provider’s camp was placed on the same block. This resulted in passengers safely boarding and exiting the coaches inside the depot space, rather than into the street. We continue to seek ways to better inform the population about our service: BMIR ran our public service announcements, and we employed new, larger banners at the depot site. Bus information signage at all the public kiosk locations is planned for the future.
Improvements to increase safety at the Black Rock City Municipal Airport (BRCMA), included a new website subdomain 88NV.burningman.com with an online pre-test for pilots and expansion to a two-runway facility. We increased our capacity for more flight operations by 11% while maintaining our excellent safety record. We moved from analog to a new arrivals/check-in software system built by the Burning Man Technology Department to: 1) better manage aircraft and people at the Airport, 2) ensure required BLM stipulation compliance, and 3) assist management of increased Air Charter activity.
“RCBRC” was established as a division of Airport – to register and provide safety guidance in cooperation with remote control aircraft enthusiasts – which will move under the Safety Officer’s oversight in 2015. We supported the “Donnerarium” our first Airport Art Burn. The venerable Black Rock Travel Agency theme camp at the Airport gifted to the community the Starport, a beautiful – and instantly iconic – visitors’ pavilion space.
When the runways had fully recovered from Monday’s heavy rains, BRCMA experienced more traffic upon Tuesday afternoon’s re-opening than Reno International Airport. The number of participants entering the Airport gate has risen by about one-third for three consecutive years now, with more than 1600 participants processed in 2014. We are continuing to work to support expanded air passenger capacity, thereby reducing surface vehicle traffic, as more people take to the skies for arrival and departure from Burning Man.
Center Camp Café
Welcoming participants into the Café in 2014 was Michael Christian’s “Bike Bridge” — our Front Portal archway with a beautiful community story behind its creation. Once inside the Café, participants had multiple opportunities to create live music on stage with interactive/improv bands and enjoy the raucous and jubilant Marching Band March-Off, or add their voice to the spoken word series. At the coffee counter, a two-lines-serve-all system for beverages replaced the historically lengthy one-line-per-station layout, improving the experience for those seeking a quick cup of java. Also new for 2014 were 22 volunteer-built standing-height tables, perfect for face-to-face conversing or quiet sipping.
Arctica Ice Sales
2014 saw a rough start, as wet conditions only allowed for the Center Camp Arctica igloo to operate on Monday. The crew stayed open extra hours that day to accommodate everyone. Fortunately, the Playa dried quickly and we were able to resume normal operations at all three igloos the following day through the rest of the event. Generous participants often leave tips for the crew. The crews in turn donated roughly $13,000 to Amazon Watch, Black Rock Solar, Defending the Blue Line, and Polar Bears International.
Volunteerism and the Volunteer Squadron
Members of the Volunteer Squadron completed a long-needed major update and thorough expansion of our Volunteer Management Handbook. We directed the production of the latest L.O.V.E. Project video featuring Playa Info, released on Burning Man’s website. We have launched and processed the annual Volunteer Feedback Project survey, and will report 2014 results and findings to Burning Man managers. Volunteer Coordinator training requests have been well received by the Director of Education for curriculum development consideration. After much discussion, we have arrived at a way to recognizing long-term volunteers: a commemorative patch to make sure their important anniversaries are acknowledged and celebrated, and our volunteers feel loved and appreciated.
Volunteer Resource Team and the V-Spot
Facilitating the principle of participation at Burning Man, the Volunteer Resource Team greeted 1,996 participants at the V-Spot this year. Of those, 902 signed up to volunteer with 16 Burning Man infrastructure teams, 12 art installations and four theme camps.
We welcomed over 100 enthusiastic Burners to our April 26 Participation Faire at the Burning Man offices in San Francisco, for a newbie orientation and a chance to speak to volunteer coordinators and sign up for teams. On the long and chilly June 21 summer solstice, we hosted a lightly-attended Participation Picnic in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco. We will be looking for a warmer climate zone for this event in 2015.
Community Yellow Bikes
The Yellow Bike Program provides community bicycles to mobilize the citizens of Black Rock City. In addition to providing guidance to the community on cycling culture on playa and tips for selecting appropriate Burning Man bikes, we provided 552 yellow bikes for the 2014 Burn.
We collected 1,312 abandoned bikes on playa post-event. Abandoned bikes are unwanted MOOP, and like everything else participants bring in, should be responsibly removed by their owners. Those bikes that could not be converted into yellow bikes for the following year were donated to various charitable organizations, including the Kiwanis Club and the Reno Bike Project. At the close of the season, we were left with over 300 Huffy Cranbrook frames to enter into the 2015 Yellow Bike fleet, largely due to participant donations.
Our operations were greatly enhanced this year by the addition of our customized crew vehicle Big Red, which facilitates mobile fleet repairs during the event, as well as bicycle transport pre- and post-event.
The Placement Team vetted, mapped and placed 843 theme camps, 52 villages (containing an additional 132 theme camps), 80 camps supporting art installations, 59 Burning Man department camps, 42 work support camps, and 41 camps supporting mutant vehicles. The Placement Team welcomed a new Production Assistant in 2014 and four new volunteers to its roster, making the team the largest ever at 19 members.
In 2011, we first voiced concerns about the growing number of turnkey or concierge camp offerings. We brought the discussion to the community with a video-recorded dialog with camp producers, blog posts and publishing guidelines. We kept the conversation going during Theme Camp forums for the next few years and this year we wanted to get more information about what concierge and turnkey camps were up to. We saw some potential in a few of these camps that fell just short of criteria for placement in the reserved zones: camps which had big ambitions, public interactivity and a good history on the playa with connections to art projects like the Temple. So we took advantage of what a temporary city has to offer and tried something new. We placed these few camps in the traditionally non-reserved areas at the very back of the city on K street, and encouraged them – admittedly a little late in game – to develop content for the public plazas at K and 3:00, 6:00 and 9:00.
We intended to inspire these camps to get a foothold, to increase their public offering and, in time, produce fully interactive theme camps with their offerings, as other such camps had succeeded in years past. Most delivered; a few failed rather spectacularly. Those failures had a negative impact on our infrastructure and our culture. Given what we learned this year, going forward all such placed camps will need to meet theme camp criteria for placement.
The solid core staff of Greeters continued their annual success of collating more than 75,000 packets of acculturation materials for the Burning Man community, followed by more than 400 individual volunteers and 21 theme camps welcoming home the participants of Burning Man 2014. Greeters Station was bigger, better staffed and ran more smoothly than ever. We started greeting four days earlier – Monday of build week – so all the artists, staff and camp builders could receive their acculturation materials upon their early arrival.
Blending teams, adding more Leads and an almost perfect year of weather – a little rain never hurt anyone! – made Greeters Station the place to be. The continued growth of inter-departmental communication and cooperation was beneficial for all. Our plan for 2015: more success!
With more than 100 volunteers, Playa Info had a successful year in combining all of the Burning Man information resources under one roof, as well as branching beyond Black Rock City. Dividing lost and found lines to facilitate fast-track drop offs and claims for IDs/labeled items significantly enhanced the on-playa reunification experience. For the fourth year running, there was virtually no downtime for the approximately 30 Directory terminals – despite the playa’s high dust and heat as well as the Monday rainstorm. With a new, third volunteer coordinator, we extended recruitment and opportunities for new volunteer involvement as well as their identification and appreciation in the form of red bead necklaces. Our mostly red-attired shade structure still seems to be the cool cyber café in the midst of the hot days. Thanks to our Outreach Lead’s efforts throughout the year, we cross-fertilized information via communication with other internal Burning Man groups. Also, Playa Info provided the Info Desk/Directory/Found Item toolkit to organizers planning information services at Regional events. Playa Info volunteers ran the Info Desks in San Francisco at the Burnal Equinox, Pre-compression, and Decompression.
Key improvements are planned for 2015. Volunteer recruitment and engagement efforts are a top priority to offset turnover and increase staff to match BRC population increases – particularly for the busy event weekend and breakdown shifts. The lost and found system, tools, and efforts are continuously being enhanced. Communication of important Burning Man information and Playa Info’s services will continue through multiple channels to reach the many BRC denizens. Directory local access is planned for mobile devices. The Playa Info Ambassador role will continue to expand work with other Burning Man groups such as Rangers to communicate important information with participants during the event. And we will further improve remote pre-event and on-playa volunteer training.
Air Playa Info
Air Playa Info volunteers at Reno International Airport provide information on Burner Express buses, popular resources, air travel to BRC, maps, directions, ridesharing, and trash/recycling. The Airport Authority (AA) reported approximately 17,000 Burners traveled through the airport to Black Rock City in 2014, including travelers from 30+ countries. AA and Air Playa Info provided lodging information to stranded Burner Express passengers impacted by Monday’s rain. Burner Express was well received by AA. A Burning Man art exhibit and BMHQ’s Mini Man were again very well received. Relaying delayed luggage deliveries by airlines to BRC Box Office worked well.
For 2015, we plan to recruit co-lead(s) to assist with volunteer recruitment, coordination, and operations. We also need to recruit volunteers with tech experience. Volunteers will receive increased education about information to be shared as well as about third-party commercial solicitations at or near Air Playa Info and reporting to the AA. We’re also looking to increase Air Playa Info’s visibility and attractiveness, such as by bringing one or two interactive art installations and décor. And the team plans to obtain additional laptops to increase participants’ access to the Playa Info Directory.
BRC’s only recycling center for participants returned to educate the masses about the benefits of sorting your trash on the Playa and in the rest of the world. It is our mission to collect as many aluminum cans as possible in one week. In 2014, participants filled two 30-yard dumpsters with crushed aluminum cans. That’s approximately 170,000 cans or just over 5,000 pounds. From the proceeds, a donation of $1500 was made to the Gerlach School.
Recycle Camp hosted 37 campers this year, and everyone worked together and setup went well. We managed well during the rain storm on Monday and had a great event week. Post-event strike went according to plan and we were off the Playa right on schedule. Recycle Camp had a very smooth year overall.
Earth Guardians expanded our volunteer teams, our events and our outreach efforts in 2014. In addition to our morning Leave No Trace (LNT) outreach and compliance teams, we added afternoon teams with the Rangers. These teams engaged participants in targeted outreach on burn barrels, gray water, black water and oil spills, and served to demonstrate to BLM the extent of participant understanding of these issues.
We also added volunteer shifts to support our full schedule of events that included bike tours on natural history interpretation, environmental art, and Behind the Green Curtain tours; parties, happy hours and performances; workshops for making alternative energy devices, for reducing use of plastics, and describing the Black Rock geology and archaeology; and yoga and tai chi. Also new this year, we added an Alternative Energy Demo Garden, which featured solar and wind devices and some rocket stoves, and supplied solar cookies to participants who stopped by. Lastly, we added volunteer teams to support the MOOP train and our evening bar service, both of which served to pass on the LNT message to participants.
We saw improved participation from the Lamplighter Villagers in all our activities, and most especially, hanging approximately 1100 kerosene lanterns this year, to light the main boulevards of Black Rock City each night. We continue to rely on walk-up volunteers as well: 220 lamplighters were needed every night, which is 1500 over the course of the event. We had five theme camps generously sign up to come light the city as a group! For 2015, we will push a call out to the Placed Camp newsletter and to Jackrabbit Speaks to recruit even more theme camps.
BMIR — Burning Man Information Radio
Like an oasis in the desert welcoming weary travelers, providing comfort and shelter a brief respite from the relentless daytime sun and cold desert nights, BMIR welcomed travelers from all over Black Rock City to our broadcast headquarters on the Esplanade. Our burn barrel burned bright.
Conversation and exotic sounds curated by DJ’s from near and far beckoned people into our lounge and filled the air with transient nodes of thought careening through a cosmic vapor of invention. There was weather. Hail and thunderstorms early in the week challenged us to fulfill our mission as BRC’s primary emergency broadcast system. From closing the city and shutting the roads to opening the gates back up, we provided informational sustenance to citizens relaying all the pertinent data they needed to get through the worst storm Burning Man had seen in over a decade. Once the event was in full swing BMIR continued to entertain and inform. We hosted a billion bunnies, held church services for Jerks and welcomed our third visitor in three years from WORTHY-FM, The Glastonbury Festival’s radio station, Oliver Owens. We came, we saw, we made noise. Don’t touch that dial.