Preliminary BRC Census Results from Burning Man 2015: Older, More Experienced, Less Californian Than We Thought

censuslogoThe BRC Census Lab conducts research on participants in Black Rock City and online after the event. We ask lots of questions about demographics and people’s experiences, because we want to accurately describe the community and the culture of Black Rock City.

Below are the preliminary results from the Random Sample, the short paper form filled out by randomly selected participants entering Black Rock City. This is just the beginning of the 2015 data that will be released by the Census Lab. But for us to produce more findings, we need you — YES, YOU — to participate in the Black Rock City Census online survey, which is live now at If you attended Burning Man 2015 and have not already completed this survey, please take the time to do so now! The survey will close October 15. The more people who complete it, the more accurate our data will be. If everyone participates then it will be a true Census of Black Rock City!

The preliminary results are based on 2,270 forms collected by Census volunteers from randomly selected vehicles along Gate Road and Burner Express buses entering Black Rock City between Sunday, August 24 and Tuesday, September 1. This is the first year we’ve been able to begin random sampling five days before the event officially started, which means this year’s data will include a larger number of early arrivers to Black Rock City. This may explain some of the differences observed in this year’s results. The final results of the Random Sample may differ slightly from these preliminary ones. (more…)

Tips & Tricks #18 “Being Shy at Burning Man”

This is a video reply to an email question I was sent:

“I’m heading home for my third burn this year and I am wondering what advice you’d give me… I don’t know if shy is the right word but it’s the word I’m going to use. I’m shy. And one of the ways this affects me in BRC is that I don’t feel like walking into camps. Even camps I know are there for everyone, I just feel like I’m an outsider, or like I don’t belong or am intruding on everyone’s happy time together. So let’s say I came by Pink Heart and saw you and wanted to come over and say hi. I’d feel like I would be interrupting whatever conversation you were having or I’d stand there awkwardly not wanting to bother you but wanting to say hi and I just don’t know how to not feel like I’m bothering people or like I’m a random stranger and not one of them. Or even just going in to the camp and… just hanging out or flopping on a couch or whatnot. It all feels so… I’m not sure. Like I shouldn’t because I’m not part of something/the camp/the friendships.

The gist of my response:


Barron Scott LevKoff’s Mystical Midway

This year the Man will be surrounded by a most exquisite clever Midway, a Carnival of Mirrors where participants can turn the surfaces reflecting themselves inside out if they dare, and by participating they may very well discover the multifarious circus of our ordinary life and create new personas. The Midway beckons to us to discover new perspectives and bring them out into the world at the conclusion of our week in Black Rock City.

Our Midway is going to be populated with mind-bending and playful attractions, and I was most fortunate to meet one of this year’s artists, Barron Scott LevKoff aka The Professor, who will be bringing his Mystical Midway to that space around the Man this year.

Barron Scott LevKoff Talking with Scott you get a feeling of how whimsical yet intentional he is. A self described dandy with a very sharp and developed mind highly attuned to the creative force, he is a font of brilliance and ideas flow from him in rapid succession; ideas that range from casual mentions of conscious evolution, social theater, the Human Potential Movement, Wisdom Sharing Networks and Cosplay, to his use of carnivalesque motley fools, hobos, devils , angels and roaming puppetry to provide tools for the creator culture that he cares very deeply about.

He’s spent time sharing the Beauty Engine Social Design he and Polly Superstar created in the early 2000’s. He told me about his work with Polly on another venture, Mission Control, where they tested out, in his words, the “language for creative collaboration” and the “commonalities of social dynamics, social techniques and methods that are similar among creative communities.” Mission Control worked with thousands of people, some of them digerati, and provided inspiration for social networks that came into being including the Abundance League that became Shareable.

Edwardian Ball  Mystic MidwayHe and I sat down for tapas and sangria in the Mission and Scott shared with me his experience of the last 25 years as a performer. Barron Scott LevKoff has had a hand in creating or participating in some of the more surreal ongoing events in the San Francisco Bay Area including Anon Salon, The Edwardian Ball, Mission Control, The Renaissance Faire at Black Point Forest, Club Ritual, Soookeasy, Master Mondos Cabare’, Lost Horizons Box Trucks, Kinky Salon and the Lagunitas Beer Circus to name a few, with his most recent foray being his Mystic Midway.

His involvement in the San Francisco Alternative scene is somewhat epic.

I asked him to tell me about his Mystical Midway that will grace Black Rock City this year and the description poured out of him …

“The Mystic Midway is a trans-media STORYWORLD based on the characters and attractions you might find in a strange, mystical carnival: “The Hat of Many Closets”, “Mister Nobody’s Swamp Shack”, “The Mirror Maze”, the “Haunted Castle” and characters such as Lady Fortuna, Mister Nobody, the Blue Mystic, Professor Grimaldi, The Snakeoil Salesman and others. Each of these characters and attractions has a corresponding card that illustrates a specific area of inquiry attributed to each. Our Mystic Midway ensemble of performers brings these characters to life and we have also created a Cosplay guide crafted specifically as an invitation for anyone to create their own Midway persona and join the Midway!

Mystic Midway“We also bring the Mystic Midway to life through fantastical sets, props, banners, wagons, flying airships and more. We host Tea Party ‘socials’ where the community comes together and we go into the Midway, almost like a role-playing game. (The ‘HOME GAME’) We go on storytelling adventures of discovery and inquiry, prompted by encounters with the MM attractions and characters. It’s a collaborative, ‘gameful’ style of group storytelling. For example, something like “Fear” might come up in an adventure and we know that it’s time to bring out ‘Mr.Nobody’, a gleeful skeleton figure who eats fear. So the goal in that moment is to name and release the fear to Mr.Nobody, so it’s a bit like a shamanic story telling game. It’s all about identifying the scripts inside us that rule our actions on the ‘mythic stage’ of our lives.

“What’s ruling us, what’s holding us back, what’s keeping us from sharing the magic within us, but feel scared to give it a name or form?”

Scott is a true believer and he’s up to something much larger than entertainment. About the Mystical Midway’s immersive environment he continued, “There’s almost no separation between participant, audience, spectator, performers. It really is immersive social theater. People can jump in with whatever they’re comfortable with. The first time they come, they kind of sit on the periphery, and say, ok I kind of see what this is about. Next time they come and they have a persona and they’re offering their gifts. Maybe I’ll do readings, or I’m more of a clowny person, or I have fairy wings and horns or whatever. You know what I mean?”

Our nice waiter brought us some bread and butter and as Scott and I conversed, I began to realize that there is a deeper level to this sort of play and creative culture. He’s not just creating an immersive experience that will no doubt delight participants on the playa this year.  I took in this phenomenon of a man across the table from me, wearing a black and white striped hat, spectacles and who sported a well groomed handlebar mustache. We discussed the language of creative culture, how he is producing events, creative community and Improv Theater  and I realized I was in the presence of a visionary. We discussed what a crazy journey these last 25 years have been for him and before that, his childhood of “hippie parents, raised in communes, in boats and vans. My mom was a psychic channel and I was raised around all these different intentional communities. So as a kid I got to see all these intentional ways of coming together so I was primed my whole life for alternate ways of living.” He then brought up his interest in magic and alchemy.

It was then that he leaned in, suddenly somewhat serious, and as he spoke he brought his visage forward and upward and I could see his brown eyes and that slyly mustachioed mouth as he flashed an upward smile and I thought — he’s up to something. Oh he’s up to something.

Barron Scott“I see society as a sculpture; it’s created intentionally by people. And a lot of people don’t see that our society has been crafted by capitalists and industrialists and consumerists towards people like you. You NEED THINGS. Medicine men knew this. Like, oh I’ve got something you need. This is a shiny thing and it’s awesome if you have this thing. You need these sneakers to be more desirable. You need this makeup or you need this clothing, you know what I mean right? And these are scripts that are running in society and so many people think, oh that’s the way it is, that’s the way life is.

“Burning Man is a place where people can look at the scripts and be like, wait a minute, does that serve me? Does this way of being serve me? Does the way of connecting and relating to other people, does this actually have value to me? So I want to create the permissions and give people the tools to examine, do these scripts serve them anymore.

“That’s why we embrace the term SOCIAL THEATER. You know because the Midway is a place of heightened social interaction, where everything is a mirror. Every character on the Midway is a mirror, a card, the story cards of the Midway that everything is based on, that I’ve been developing, I’m taking all my observations of creative culture they’re all in the story cards. Everything’s a mirror, hey take a look at this. What has value to you what are you pulling yourself to?

“How does insight serve you? Are you just a mental, intellectual person or do you have insight and intuition, so everything is inquiry. Hey what do you think about this, what do you think about this, no truths, just inquiry. Just questions. It’s all questions.

“It’s a crazy experiment. And I need a Christmas miracle to pull this off.”

The Mystical Midway, Carnival of Mythic Possibility has an ongoing IndieGOGO campaign to get them to Burning Man.

Go there. Contribute and read on.

Our sangria arrived, we toasted a cheers and I took a plunge into the fascinating world of Barron Scott LevKoff also known as “The Professor”.


Gate, Perimeter & Exodus: You Are Invited

Danger Ranger was the first to draw a line in the dust, and he announced that across that line, everything would be different. Today, there is still a line that separates the default world from Black Rock City, and it’s active 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

We are Gate, Perimeter & Exodus.

All BRC citizens will have first encountered us, had their car searched and their tickets torn, but so often that memory dissolves before they reach the Greeter stations about two miles farther down Gate road. Some of you reading this may have just remembered that we’re not the same as Greeters. That’s okay, we actually like being able to disappear from your memory like that. Next time though, keep an eye out for us. We’re dressed in black, working tirelessly around the clock so this temporary city can exist, and doing it miles outside the Perimeter, away from the lights, music, cameras, and action.

We are a huge and very busy department, working day and night in some of the most extreme conditions on the planet. To try and summarize what almost two dozen sub-departments are doing is impossible, but whether it’s processing arrivals at Gate, scanning the Perimeter for unannounced guests, pulsing everybody out of the city at the end of the week, or any of the jobs connecting these tasks, we’re doing it before you arrive and still doing it after you leave.

If you’re looking for a different kind of way to get involved in Black Rock City’s future, and you want to help make everyone’s journeys safer, consider volunteering with us.

Though we may sometimes wear the make up, actual clowns need not apply.

We have comprehensive training for every area. Training takes place on playa, during the event.

Work three shifts to earn a department shirt! (Other perks may or may not exist)

You must have visited Burning Man at least once before, and you must have your own ticket to join GP&E.

If you are interested, please:

  1. Log in to
  2. Click “Participations Forms” in the header bar
  3. Click “Volunteer Questionnaire”
  4. Fill out the form, remembering to select Gate, Perimeter & Exodus as where you would like to volunteer

Performers Wanted for the Midway Stages!

BM-2015-Carnival-of-MirrorsStep right up to the fabulous Man Pavilion stages for round-the-clock entertainment of all stripes!

Two stages, located approximately 100 feet from the Man at 4:30 and 7:30 and equipped with lights and sound, will run 24/7 during event week. We are looking for seasoned and brand new performers to join us on the Midway; both stages will be curated and scheduled. Performers are encouraged to sign up prior to Burning Man, as time slots will fill up fast. You will not be provided a ticket to Burning Man for performing, you will need to have ticket in hand.

For more information, or to sign up now, email

Female Leadership: “There’s chicks in charge everywhere.”

[This post reprinted with permission from Burn After Reading Magazine.]

Harley K. Dubois and Rebecca Anders (Photo by Sidney Erthal)
Harley K. Dubois and Rebecca Anders (Photo by Sidney Erthal)


No one takes a tool out of anyone’s hands. That seems to be the golden rule that truly fosters leadership. “The more the teacher resists the urge to take the tool out of the hand of the student, the better the student learns,” attests Rebecca Anders who has been apart of large Burning Man art since 1997. She’s worked with the Flaming Lotus Girls, helped to build the Temple of Flux and currently makes within the Flux Foundation. Her cohort for the Female Leadership lecture at the Burning Man Global Leadership is equally amazing. Harley K. Dubois attended her first Burn in 1991 and it has spiraled out of control from there. Harley is responsible for creating the infrastructure of Burning Man. She was the first person to suggest theme camp placement and has served as the City Manager for fifteen years. Now she is the Chief Transition Officer and facilitated the recent transition of The Burning Man Project.

One of the main things these women have learned by being leaders in their communities – it’s about collaboration not competition. The more projects embrace the “We” instead of the “I” the more everyone involved is able to succeed. This kind of attitude leads to the doacracy culture that we all so greatly appreciate.

Thoughtful responses were plentiful from the crowd. (Photo by Sidney Erthal)
Thoughtful responses were plentiful from the crowd. (Photo by Sidney Erthal)

Rebecca has a great example of this from her Burn in 2011. While building the Temple of Flux there was no lead carpenter. The person with the clipboard was the person in charge but that individual was constantly rotating. When it was quitting time for one, another would come in, get briefed, grab the clipboard and take their place. The balance of power was never skewed because everyone had a chance to be in that leadership role. At first the professional carpenters who came to volunteer with the temple at the Burn were fairly confused. There was no main foreman only someone standing there with a clipboard and all the information. “There’s chicks in charge everywhere,” Rebecca joked that this must have been the possibly unnerving realization of all these carpenters who were used to a very different situation. This radical model was insanely successful and to this day The Temple of Flux, which was created by a crew that was 80% women, was the only temple to finish early and under budget.

This success should come as no surprise. “Women have been running Burning Man since the getgo.” Harley states with sincerity and a bit of levity. Marian Goodell, Crimson Rose and Harley were incredibly instrumental in the creation of Black Rock City. Harley built all her teams by making dinner and feeding them. One of Harley’s tricks is to be nourishing and accommodating, it gets the job done.

Throughout the entire workshop and the open discussion that began to take shape between all the participants in the room the concept of the We continuously came up. Everyone needs to feel empowered and if you give value to the volunteers there’s a sense of ownership that creates a work family not just a work crew. Our consensus was that the most powerful thing that a leader of any gender can do is to give their power to others.

PedalBump Shows What It Takes to Run an Interactive Theme Camp

PedalBump is a fantastic theme camp that’s been hosting interactive madness on the Esplanade in Black Rock City since 2013. They welcome Burning Man participants to enjoy (as in, smash the shit out of each other in) custom built pedal-powered bumper cars on a circular track beneath a big top circus tent. Hell. Yes.

And that’s all well and good, of course, but they’ve taken it a step further — they help teach other Burners what it takes to run an interactive theme camp at Burning Man. The result? Everybody wins.

Here’s their recap from this last year, check it out if you’re prone to the oh so foolish idea of running an interactive theme camp on playa (we kid, it’s awesome):

We wanted to let you know that our endeavor to teach some folks about running an interactive installation was a smashing success! We will have slots open again this year for some intrepid groups to learn how to run an interactive installation, including joining in our build process, so stay tuned for our 2015 press release!  Meanwhile, here is a quick 2014 RECAP of the Guest Hosting crew endeavors.

(Photo by Sarah G )

At the start of the 2104 Burn, the first time that we handed over the PedalBumps under the big top circus tent to a guest hosting crew, our founding group walked away and looked at it from afar with a broader perspective. It was like handing over our baby. We spent every single day and night running it last year and rarely had the chance to step back and watch the show.

It was hard in a way to entrust it to others. Giving up control over something you’ve created with a tight knit group is never easy. The installation encompasses our heart’s work and each bumper car was fabricated to have an individual personality. The host crews needed to step up to wrangle and entertain several hundred people on the Esplanade, while caring for a truckload of equipment during each shift of the public races. But we knew that having these host crews totally take over was definitely the best way for them to learn the ins and outs of an interactive installation of this scale.  As a group they had to figure out how to divvy up jobs, support each other, communicate in a chaotic environment, keep the party going, troubleshoot on the fly and close up shop when done.

(Photo by Gerard DiNardi)

The crews we interviewed and selected for this awesome opportunity showed up in full force, ready to go and gave us peace of mind to let the mayhem roll. It was well worth it to share this knowledge in a completely experiential fashion. They all created new styles and wacky traditions we may have never thought of for PedalBump. We gave each hosting crew a bunch of pre-instructions via email and all our tips and tricks in person on playa to running this crazy installation. At the start of each shift, we got them started going over all the details but once we stepped away they were fully in charge. By all reports they had a blast. The number one comment they all made was how exhausted they were creating a massive spectacle for four hours straight and that they would do it again in a heartbeat! Here’s a quick rundown of what went on when the 2014 host crews took over.

Steampunk Saloon: It was a lovely, music oriented evening at the races with these beautiful DJ’s and magic-makers. Their witty, polite announcers got the crowds to play lightly with a bump and run style that had riders giggling and showing off. The cameras were out in force. It was a primping and posing night on the track reminiscent of the Preakness. They emphasized delight and the vibe carried into a dance party under the tent after the races ended. The next day we found all the PadalBumps in near perfect condition. The track and surrounding environs were spotless. People came again the next day to show off and pose with the bumper cars.

(Photo by Gerard DiNardi)

Gate Crew: This crew came in HARD! They amped up with some growling music and immediately began verbally heckling riders and spectators. They brought their own orange cones to set up lanes within the track (ala the lines at gate) and spun riders around for complete directional mayhem. They created duststorms by slamming giant pillows on the ground and then incessantly hurling these massive dusty bombs at the riders—who loved it! Their pit crew searched and harassed riders and constantly ran them off the road and caught rides on the bumpers. Impeded by cones, pit crew and dust bombs, riders could not even get enough speed to make it around the track more than a few times before collapsing and rolling off the cars to practically crawl off the track in sheer hysterics.

Kids Day: The kids showed up hours before their scheduled slot waiting impatiently to run the races before most of our camp was even awake. You know kids…. Our original crew helped them set up, got them used to the microphones to announce and showed them how to manage the line. The small-fry got both kids and adults racing for hours and our mechanics helped a few learn how to turn some wrenches to fix a few loose screws and flat tires left over from Gate crew the night before. At first glance, you’d think that adults are going to overpower kids on these things but it is exactly the opposite. The kids have boundless, endless energy and clear lungs for the crazy cardio that pedaling requires and can out maneuver almost any adult within one lap.

(Photo by Gerard DiNardi)

Mystikal Misfits: This talented performance group took the demolition derby aspect of PedalBump to new heights. The next day after these Misfits ran it, all our cars were so smashed and bashed we needed to re-weld over half of them and two of the older models were damaged beyond repair. They invented a new tradition called stilt cocking at the races where a naked stilter walks over the racers before they take off from the starting line.

The Eds: A small but energized group from our own camp took over Friday afternoon. They were new to the whole performance aspect of running the races, but they did have a real life fireman on crew so we trusted everyone was in good hands. By Friday day, word was out that PedalBump is a blast so they had a steady stream of happy people to entertain. The shady tent became a fun oasis for their races. They put on a great show, cracking tons of jokes in matching PedalBump Pit Crew T-shirts and their sheer enthusiasm kept everyone smiling like crazy.

Camp Absofuckinlutionists: They were Canadian and they make awesome homebrewed beer.  At first, they were so timid and polite that the spectators were out of control, cutting in line, jumping on cars and climbing the tent! We gave them some coaching and some whiskey and emphasized that they were in charge and had the right to kick out any assholes. Soon enough they were heckling everyone within earshot and ordering people around like pros.

(Photo by Sarah G)

A special shout out goes out to several individual volunteers, especially Viking, who showed up to help at random times and jumped in to announce, wrangle and fix the cars! They brought a zing of new energy and had a blast! A few of the crews did not make it to their scheduled slots due to the rainstorm and entry delays at the beginning of the week. But those that missed out will be on the roster this year if they want to try again.

We’re sure our 2014 guest crews and volunteers will take their first-hand knowledge to creating more interactive art at their own camps this year!

Watching from afar confirmed our commitment to bringing in new crews to host the races and gave us new energy to improving PedalBump for its 3rd year! We’ll be having some build days and pre-playa races in L.A. this summer for anyone who wants to get involved in advance and we’ll be taking applications once again for hosting crews and volunteers to jump in at the Burn in 2015. Again, stay tuned for details.

Much Love from the PedalBump Crew

Kevin, Sarah, Tanya and Zack

Call-Out for Burning Man Sticker Designs!

2007 Burning Man sticker by Eggchair Steve
2007 Burning Man sticker by Eggchair Steve

This is the official call for designs for the 2015 Burning Man stickers! Your design could be the one passed out with the materials you receive as you pass through the Greeters Station upon entering Black Rock City. Other designs will be official sticker schwag distributed throughout the year. Help us remember our wonderful home in the desert even when we’re away!

So, don’t hesitate. Participate! Thank you and good luck!

The Details:


Your designs must use one of the three die sizes:
2. 5″ x 5.75” with a 0.125” corner radius
3″x 3″ square with a 0.062” corner radius
3” Diameter Circle


Whichever type of sticker tickles your fancy (or maybe you’re very ticklish and want to enter several designs), remember there IS a theme, and we like stickers that attempt to use the theme. Read up on the Carnival of Mirrors theme!

Must include: both the name Burning Man and the year 2015 in your design.


If using 1-3 colors, set up the file to print as PMS
If using 4 or more colors, set up the file to print as CMYK


Round stickers are given priority for winning the coveted “Gate Sticker” spot, going out to ALL Black Rock Citizens. Other sticker sizes are printed out and handed out to volunteers throughout the year.

Submitting your Art:

Send either a PDF file OR (preferably) the original Adobe Illustrator (.ai) file to You must OUTLINE all fonts. Whether sending your design or questions, please put your first and last name in the subject header as well as the phrase “2015 Sticker Submission”.


Monday, May 18. No art is accepted after this date.

Thank you!