Athens, Ohio

The drive from Columbus to Athens is a short and beautiful one. New bypasses have gotten the trip down to about 1 1/2 hour and the scenery is lush and green. The farther you get from Columbus, the more the landscape starts to change. Farms and old barns start to dot the roadside and the rolling foothills of the Appalachian mountains start to appear.

Athens is nestled in those foothills, in the flood plane of the Hocking River, about 30 minutes from the border with West Virginia in South Eastern Ohio.

I admit that I was tingling with excitement about this visit. I spent eight years living in this small, rural, college town and haven’t been back for a visit in a long time. The very first time I ever heard about Burning Man was in Athens and it was from this town that I made my very first trek to the playa.

Ol'Bill, the Athens RC

Our new Regional Contact “Ol’Bill” Ickinger lives here and has organized the first ever Meet n Greet in Athens at the local worked owned restaurant co-op Casa Nueva.

This turned out to be a joining of two worlds, I was once a worker owner of this fine place that strives to use only organic, locally grown and produced products. It is one of the best restaurants in town, a great place to see live music, a good place to find new art and a true community hub for this small town of 20,000 (40,000 when the students from Ohio University are there).

Angie from Cincinnati

Upon entering Casa Cantina, I was greeted by not only Ol’Bill, but also Stephanie who came down to join us from Columbus AND our Cincinnatti Regional Contact, Angie. What a treat to have three out of four Ohio RCs under one roof!!

Angie joined us from Cincinnati.

Nothing could have prepared me for the sheer number of people who turned out for this Meet n Greet. At one point we had at least 2 dozen people gathered around our table all laughing and passing around photo albums, maps, gifts.

chatting

Questions were asked a plenty, we took a poll and found out that 3/4 of the people at the table have not been to Burning Man yet. They all have tickets and this is to be their very first year!!! So many newbies in one place, the excitement in the air was electric. We would have sat and talked the night away had it not been for the band who wanted our coveted stage seating for themselves.

Meet n Greet Athens

MnG Casa

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A small group broke off and headed up to Court Street – the brick paved main drag of ‘uptown Athens’. They were having a bake sale to help get their camp to the playa this year.

Hooper

music

Bake Sale!

Tasty baked treats that say “Support Art” and “Eat Me” were joined by huge pans of brownies and a big pot of fresh lime ade. They had hoola hoops and were encouraging passersby to join in the fun and give it a shot. A small group sat nearby on a bench and played some music.

They weren’t the only ones out working to raise money that night, several other student groups set up little tables with goodies to try and raise money for their various projects.

LimeAde Anyone?

LimeAde Anyone?

I enjoyed a cup of lime ade and chatted with the gang about the challenges of getting to the playa from so far away. Having made that drive myself for 3 different years, I know all to well how tough it can be.

Eventually it was time to mosey along for an evening stroll through the brick streets of town. I bade my fellow burners and burners-to-be good luck with promises of finding them on the playa.

Of all my regional travels thus far, I admit to being overwhelmed by the Ohio burners. Being one of them and seeing how far they have come in a short time (the first Ohio RC was interviewed just over a year ago), I’m inspired and encouraged to know that good things are a brewin’ in a place that I hold dear to my heart.

About the author: Bex

Bex Workman is the Regional Network Administrator for Burning Man. She is fond of rubber chickens, clowns and pirates. Ye have been warned.

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