it’s official: Burning Man has begun

Gerbil climbed up onto a container, waved his arms, and the gates opened.

A couple dozen or so people rode down to the Gates last evening for the “soft” opening of Burning Man 2011.

As you’ve no doubt heard, the gates to the city don’t open until midnight on Sunday night of the event. Buuuuut, for the last couple of years, there has in fact been an unofficial official opening, when the powers that be have said that it’s time to let folks in and get those lines moving.

There are already a LOT of people here; as of about 2pm on Monday, there were officially 15,431 people in Black Rock City. That number is not an exact one: it’s the average of the population in the past 24 hours, so we can assume that there are at least several thousand more than that here now.

Most of those here have early arrival passes, so they can set up their camps and their art. But as of last night at 6:30, all were welcome.

It's hot, it's dusty, and tempers can be short. It's not an easy shift down at the Gate.

Gerbil was one shift commander at the Gate last evening, and he popped up on top of a container, waved his arms, and the influx commenced. Many people had been waiting in line for hours already, but in general the mood was festive.

Many of the Gate workers were wearing clown makeup. Why was that? “You don’t want to f— with a clown,” MissFit said. Gerbil had another explanation: “It’s a f— circus out here!”

Still, working the gate is a tough task. You have to be friendly, but firm. You have to get a look at the tickets, but more importantly maybe, you have to check to make sure that there isn’t any contraband being smuggled into the city, humans included.

And not everyone about to begin their Burn is in the greatest mood. “I had one guy calling me a ….” Vasha was saying. And she wasn’t alone in her complaints about rough treatment.

One Gate worker’s playa name explains it all: it’s Kiosk. And they earned the name when they were pinned between a car and a kiosk.

Later last night, around midnight, a much larger group of BRC residents went down to the Gates to welcome the new arrivals. There were bullhorns and beers and rolling in the dust as the “official” Opening Night party got underway.

Either way, early or late, it’s really official now: It has begun!

MissFit was one of many people in clown makeup at the gate for the evening shift. "Who's going to f--- with a clown?" she asked.

 

These folks were first in line when the Gates opened. They had early arrival passes, too.

 

 

About the author: John Curley

John Curley has been Burning since the relatively late date of 2004, and in 2008 he spent the better part of a month on the playa, documenting the building and burning of Black Rock City in words and pictures. John is a longtime newspaper person and spent many years at the San Francisco Chronicle, where he was a deputy managing editor in charge of Page One and the news sections of the paper. Since leaving the Chronicle in 2007, he was a contributing editor on Blue Planet Run, a book about the world's water crisis, and for the past two years has been a lecturer at UC Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism. He has also started an event and editorial photography business, and is also working on a book about the "Ten Dollar Doc" from Arco, Idaho, which will make a lovely film someday.

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