Nevada Festival: Burning Man
Burning Man is an infamous annual Black Rock Desert festival that happens in my home state every year. So it's pretty sad that as a Nevadan I know very little about the festival. Luckily, the lovely lady Calypso (her Burning Man name) is going to change that for me. I was lucky to score an interview with Calypso, a Las Vegas native who has found her way to Burning Man.
For those unfamiliar with this alternative community-atmosphere festival, it is a week long shindig in the middle of the desert that culminates with the burning of a huge man-like creation at the end of the week. Since I haven't yet been to the festival I was eager to chat with Calypso. In addition, I've heard about some of the greener principles that are a part of Burning Man, so thought it was an appropriate time for this interview, since we our Lovely Las Vegas theme this month is Going Greener.
Photo credit: Calypso.
Jules @ Lovely Las Vegas: What is the Burning Man experience like?
Calypso: It's like a community! You're camping but you're surrounded by art and strangers, but everyone treats you as a friend and an equal. People are giving, they share without wanting something in return and just want to experience life and enjoy their
surroundings. You find there is no tolerance for breaking the Burning Man rules because everyone cares about the environment and want to leave it untouched.
Jules: How long is the festival?
Calypso: It lasts 7 days; once you're in, you cannot leave without buying another ticket. So you better come prepared for a long stay.
Jules: Describe a typical day at Burning Man?
Calypso: It's difficult to sleep late because of all the noise that's going on...it's built as large concentric circles with streets running through the middle and each has a name- they all correlate to the theme for that festival. You can walk around and view the art that people have built, whether they have painted themselves, portraits or built vehicles to ride in. Most cars will let you go along for the ride! There are many people on bicycles as its a LARGE area and harder to get around on foot. In center camp there usually is music playing and people sitting and talking. Here you can purchase coffee etc. if needed but most people don't bring money! This festival is built on trade: e.g., give a homemade necklace for a photo. Its all about giving!
Jules: How did you prepare for your trip to the festival?
Calypso: Water water water!! You are in the desert, many people get dehydrated so be prepared with foods that are easy to preserve. More than enough water; they say to be safe a few gallons per person! Think as if you're camping...but remember whatever you bring in you MUST take out, this includes trash!!! We pick up after ourselves!
Jules: What are some of the most unique costumes you have seen at Burning Man?
Calypso: Well, many people mostly go in the nude, to be honest. It is boiling out and Burning Man is about freedom. Men and women may not wear anything and they are not ridiculed for it! At first I was worried about this, but no one pressures you or makes you feel embarrassed for who you are or what you look like. Young and old big and small all do it! Other than that there's always lots of feathers, paint etc. Many men wear sarongs as I imagine its more comfortable. Personally, I think its pretty attractive. Haha.
Jules: What is the philosophy of the event?
Calypso: Try new things, meet new people, and above all, respect each other; this includes the Earth! But always have fun :)
Jules: What is the culmination of the festival like?
Calypso: Its like a rock concert! Everyone gathers for the burning of "the man". Although this started years ago, some people picket to not burn the man!! It just adds to the fun! There are fire dancers and songs people sing.....people see the burn as a cleansing, starting over and forgetting the bad. Of course after there are parties scattered everywhere that anyone can visit...no one is excluded!
Jules: What are some of the green principles of the festival?
Calypso: Whatever you bring in must be taken out or you will not be allowed to return. This includes trash, waste....they don't even want you pouring out drinks in respect for the land. The Black Rock Desert is actually near a local Indian reservation and we are all guests so we must be respectful. The port-a-potties are not the best part :( . They want you to be sparing with the toilet paper as the toilets will clog up easily and once one is broken it is available no more! So everyone is careful. Dogs are not allowed at Burning Man because of the waste they leave, as well as, unfortunately, people abandoning them in the desert.
Julie: How is the city organized?
Calypso: In the center is "center camp" where there is coffee and lemonade, chai tea goes fast!! LOL. Bands play and people gather in the shades. There are concentric circles leading out and streets that run through all of the circles. Each street is named to help you move about. Upon entering the festival everyone is given a map! It tells you all the streets as well as special groups that are a part of the festival, they may be performers or have art displays that are worth seeing!
Jules: What is your favourite memory from your time at Burning Man?
Calypso: There was a man playing the piano, it was on a platform that had rollers. He was accompanied by a fiddle player and they rolled around the desert playing songs for everyone. It was beautiful music and they were wonderful people.
Jules: How has attending Burning Man changed your life perspective?
Calypso: I notice other "burners", as they're called, everywhere I go now, haha. But I think it has helped me be more respectful towards the Earth in my daily life as well as shown me that they are a lot of people out there that care about it as much or even more than me. I've become friendlier and less shy with strangers...and found once I became more open and giving so did others. Burning Man gives you a definite sense of perspective of who you are, you gain the confidence and assurance from the support all these strangers gave you in the week we spent together in the middle of nowhere!
Jules: Who do you recommend to attend Burning Man?
Calypso: Everyone! I've met so many people young and old who go! I met retired Republicans who frequent! It's definitely a shock but I think anyone can find something to appreciate there. The music, art, as well as camping experience have something to offer. Women there brought their infant children! People go there to get married as well as to deliver their babies! It's a community its open and loving. I think if you're a partier you'll love it, haha. If you're into art and photography you'll love it! There's so much to see and so much to do.
Jules: If there is anything else you want to mention, have at it!
Calypso: Although it is so much fun, like everything you have to be safe!! The festival makes sure there are paramedics and doctors available for those who need it. Many people develop UTI's or have drug related health issues and all of it can be handled at the red cross camp! There are also police officers roaming the area in order to facilitate safety. They do not care if someone is using illegal substances in front of them, they are there for the safety of the burners! The stereotype of Burning Man is that is a large orgy with drugs everywhere! There are people who get involved in sexplay but its all behind doors!! It is your choice and you will not be forced into anything! The same with the drugs... you do not see it unless you go out of your way to see it. No one will make you do anything!!
Sounds like an awesome festival. I definitely want to attend. Thank you, Calypso, for a great glimpse at life during Burning Man!