The Burning Man Festival is, at its core, an arts and music festival, but with a twist. The price of admission only supports the infrastructure. No one is paid to entertain, and there is nothing to buy or sell. The twist is that the festival must be created by the attendees.
Normally, one goes to a music festival to enjoy the paid talent. At Burning Man, artists and musicians do not get paid. Everyone who goes is expected to be a participant, not a spectator. The audience and the performers are one and the same. Everyone is encouraged to bring “something” to the festival, and it can be almost anything. In a temporary city of 60,000 inhabitants, it really is almost anything.
We have seen art of all kinds, great musical performances, circus acts to rival the Cirque du Soleil, magicians, poetry slams, interactive kinetic sculptures and “art cars” (vehicles that have been mutated into art). Groups of people come together to create bars and food stalls, some of them pop-up. Imagine someone giving you a freshly made Smore in the middle of the night in the open desert. We’ve had homemade mead and pizza fired in a mobile wood oven, all of which was brought on site and gifted.
Anyone who attends must take an active role in the festival, or the festival just doesn’t exist. From personal experience, the act of creating for others’ enjoyment and entertainment is supremely rewarding. It’s a stage with immediate response and appreciation. Even volunteering for the infrastructure is both necessary, appreciated and personally enjoyed.
One incredible aspect of Burning Man is that it has spawned “regional” events all over the world. A regional event is a smaller, local festival based on the same principals as the original. This tends to create a “community” without national boundaries. On our travels, we have found “Burners” (people who have attended a Burning Man style festival) everywhere. It’s a common ground that makes for instant friendship.
Sometimes, our random travel brings us near a regional event. We intentionally veered south after Bali, not just for the warm weather, but also to attend New Zealand’s regional event – KiwiBurn.
The twelfth annual KiwiBurn, held on the North Island, burned a pretty amazing woven bamboo effigy. We enjoyed the proximity to the Rangitiki River for swimming, skinny dipping and mud baths, and forest camping with the occasional sheep passing right through our campsite. Best of all though, are the Burners themselves. We were among other international visitors and friends. We volunteered (participated) for greeter shifts, where we welcomed people “home” and explained the principles of the event to those who hadn’t been to a Burn-style event.
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