Involving and Engaging Kids at Burning Man

Zebra riders (Photo by Omer Sehayek)
Zebra riders (Photo by Omer Sehayek)

Black Rock City relies on the efforts, diligence and ethics of the Burners that build the city, run departments and set the stage to make Burning Man possible, and kids are some of the most enthusiastic volunteers who love contributing their time, and have fun doing it.

From the very beginning, playa kids learn survival skills, playa ethics like Leave No Trace, and ultimately how to contribute to their community. When taught the Burning Man principles on playa, kids get it right away. They learn it, live it and incorporate it into their core values as they grow up.

Through programs like Black Rock Scouts, kids get to volunteer and train with departments like Lamplighters, Gate, Greeters, ESD, Media Mecca and DMV. This kind of behind-the-scenes exposure teaches them invaluable skills and often inspires kids (and their parents) to join a crew, which some Scouts have gone on to do.

What are the Risks?

Adult content is concern for some — mostly to those without kids — but exposure to such things challenges parents to talk about tough subjects. Kids are not shy about asking questions, so most parents look at it as an opportunity to talk openly with their children about sexuality, drug use and human nature.

Mobile classroom (Photo by Roth Hall)
Mobile classroom (Photo by Roth Hall)

As far as nudity goes, kids love being naked so when adults don’t react negatively, it’s no big deal. In the end, it’s the parent’s responsibility to decide what their child should see or not, so Burners should simply be themselves around kids. If your behavior seems unsuitable for kids, it’s up the parents to remove their children from the situation. No biggie.

How About the Rewards?

Interacting with kids on playa can be a rewarding experience for child-free Burners. Do you remember having that ‘aha!’ moment during your first Burn? You relearned how to play, how to be generous and how it feels to be unconditionally accepted. Children who come to the playa are already there. They see the world as one big playground. Their open minds are not tainted with prejudice or judgment.

Playing with children helps us experience the magic of the playa through their fresh perspective. Playa kids raised at Burning Man have the advantage of on-the-playa training with inspiring Burners (like you) as role models. When you encounter a baby Burner this year, take a moment to have a conversation, share your wisdom or simply play with them.

Playa-raised kids are the next generation of Burners and they’ll be the ones keeping the flame alive at Burning Man.

You’ve got the KLAP

As of this week, Gerlach’s one and only radio station, KLAP 89.5FM, moved physically from the garage in town to Mama Loella’s old hotel next door.

ye olde garage, now housing Quinn's new pizza joint
ye olde garage, now housing Quinn’s new pizza joint

KLAP 89.5FM sounds like KPIG — playing a vast array of cowboy, country, rock, roll, jazz, reggae, folk, Cajun, Latin, Dixieland, and soul music, in random playlists which skillfully ride the thin line between eclectic and familiar. And that’s because Jeff Cotton, who programmed KPIG, started the KLAP four years ago.

You could listen to KLAP 89.5FM right now, and forever, streaming here.

Gerlach Senior Center – Donations Wish List

Gerlach’s elders could use a few things, y’all.

The Nevada town just outside the Black Rock Desert where Burning Man occurs is home to a small but thriving population of senior citizens. Rather than head towards the nursing homes of Reno, the elders in this dusty Western hamlet pretty much decided to hunker down and stick together. A Senior Center was created, where they can rely on each other for support, which allows them to live at their own homes for what seems like longer than most old folks get to, or maybe ‘til the last, as most of us would prefer.

Senior Center painting of Gerlach's iconic Water Tower, by someone named Livermore, done in 1978
Senior Center painting of Gerlach’s iconic Water Tower, by someone named Livermore, done in 1978

Weekday lunches and frequent activities with your friends? Constant contact with your support network? Sounds like a better way to spend those golden years than locked in a bleak hospital for the aging, somewhere far away from the ones you love.

Art Tours? Yes, we have Art Tours.

Mike Garlington's Photo Chapel  Photo by Anthony Peterson
Mike Garlington’s Photo Chapel
Photo by Anthony Peterson

One thing that keeps me coming back to Black Rock City each year is the ART.

It has been said many times that the playa is a blank slate, a tabula rasa, a seemingly infinite empty space that all of us who are the Burning Man community fill up for a week with so much art that it is bursting at the seams, and seeing how the playa challenges artists is a thing of beauty.

Our artists are playa hardened. They are well aware of how a massive, not unexpected dust storm affects agility of machinery and mechanics. They know how a rain storm stops all forward momentum and that a wind gust can topple the mightiest monument. In the environment of Black Rock City, just spending months building an art piece and transporting it is only a small part of the challenges that artists face to fill up that space. They are planning for an art show at the edge of the apocalypse, with insidious alkaline powder invading every electronic device, with huge and heavy sculptural forms being moved across the soft packed playa surface all using an infrastructure they and Burning Man set up for only a few weeks a year.

Art Tours at Everywhere Photo Moze
Art Tours at Everywhere
Photo Moze

Our artists are aware of the vastness of the space they are attempting to fill up. I believe they are basically mad to even attempt to do what they do every year and those of us who are not building art out there are so fortunate to be at this point in history; to be a part of this thing we call Burning Man.

Sometimes on playa, we can take the art for granted. You will always stumble into something wonderful on your journeys to and fro and that is indeed planned. But for you art junkies out there who want to see it ALL each year, the ARTery is Black Rock City’s portal for Art Tours, and this year there is a panoply of options to explore.

A web page with all the information you need is in the works, but here are some details for now. You should stop by the ARTery at 6:30 and Esplanade, next to Everywhere, if you are interested in any of these tours. The ARTery’s hours are 9am to 6pm every day (closed for lunch from 1-2pm) and they would love to see you! Keep reading for all you need to know about Art Tours this year.


Adopt a Street Sign (ASS) Project

Street signs, 2013. (Photo by Philippe Glade)
Street signs, 2013. (Photo by Philippe Glade)

Sometimes, when the citizens of Black Rock City are confronted with a challenge, they turn it into an art project. This, ladies and gentlemen, is one of those times.

The street signs that adorn every corner of BRC are not only beautiful, they’re functional. Not only are they functional, they are critical to public safety. When that ambulance is looking to find YOU, they need to know what street they’re on. SO DON’T REMOVE STREET SIGNS!

Now, despite what we say, we know it’ll happen anyway. So let’s solve this with an art project! Here’s how …

Adopt a street corner in your neighborhood, and add new, aesthetically pleasing, informative street signs of your own making! (Please don’t put stuff on the existing sign-posts, though.)

We’re calling this the Adopt a Street Sign (ASS) project, because we’re 12-years old.

Radical Self-Expression, meet Communal Effort. BOOM. Make babies.

Lastly, Leave No Trace! Make sure to MOOP the street corners at the end of the event!!

Exodus Traffic Pulsing = One-Hour Neighborhoods!

Gate road, 2008
Gate road, 2008

During Exodus (when oh so many of you depart Black Rock City for your other home), wait times can run from anywhere to 3-9 hours to get from camp to the highway. And to state it simply, we cannot get vehicles off of the playa any faster than we already do.

To make the inevitable Exodus wait more sane, we’ll be implementing Pulsing on Sunday and Monday this year, 24 hours a day (or until the need dissipates).

Pulsing is a system of moving vehicles at regular intervals toward the highway on Gate Road to avoid the long slow creep that challenges the sanity of even the most patient among us. With Pulsing, vehicles stop and turn off their engines. Then, every hour, vehicles are “pulsed” a mile forward all at once. (Tune your car radio to BMIR 94.5 FM or the Gate Advisory Radio Station 91.5 FM for Exodus info.)

Pulsing does NOT get you out of the city more quickly, it just lets you take a break from driving.

Pulsing is the perfect time to create One-Hour Neighborhoods. Pack water, snacks, instruments and anything else to make the wait more fun. Have a one hour dance party and meet your neighbors in line. Jonathan did … here’s what happened:

My friend and I had such an amazing Exodus the night of the Temple burn I feel compelled to share.

It all happened accidentally. It was my first Burn. I knew about the Pulse system, but wasn’t sure exactly what to expect. After the first pulse, I started my watch to see how long we would stop. It was an hour, to the minute.  During that time, I talked with a couple strangers enthusiastically about my Burn experience.

After the next pulse, I started thinking about all that I could do in the next hour, if it really was an hour in-between pulses and not random. I could go for a run in the desert straight out from my car. I could go talk to more strangers. I ended up putting 3 lighted candles on my car so I wouldn’t lose the car if I wandered too far.

I met another Burner named Taryn. She had the brilliant idea that ended up being the spark for the “after-burn” as we so fondly called it later. She asked, “Why aren’t there tents out there [pointing to the open playa next to the 16 lanes of cars leaving BM] hosting parties, food, etc?” I replied, “you are absolutely right! There could be art cars hosting dance parties to keep people awake. Small camps giving out coffee for safety.” But then, it hit me. We could do that. We could actually do that after the very next pulse.  s long as the break was predictable, we could do this and a lot more. We waited. Like clockwork, the next pulse started 1 hour after stopping.

Taryn was up for helping me unpack and pack the van to get our stove and other supplies out. So, we spent 10 minutes getting stuff out. Then we fired up the stove and made dinner – from scratch! It was delicious. Spaghetti with sausages and a bit of sauce. We then started planning the next phase (we still don’t have a good name for those hour long stretches — micro-burns?). We wanted dessert and coffee. After 50 min, we knew it was time to pack up and get ready. We did it with no problem and were ready to go when the pulse started again.

Dessert was fried macaroons with Nutella. Simply amazing! French press Peets coffee. Perfect combination. It was this break when we really knew we were on to something. We were flat-out loving the Exodus from Burning Man! We started talking about how cool it was — to have these breaks to look forward to, to meet someone new, to have deep conversation on the way out of the playa instead of bemoaning how long it was taking. The “Burn” vibe was very much with us.

We did this 4 different times. I had been calculating our distance to the road by the marker that said 4 miles to the highway. We had potentially one more break. It was going to be our best break – a dance break. We were going to wake up Taryn’s RV and get them outside dancing to our Jambox speaker. However, we hugged good-bye in case there were no more breaks.

As it tuned out, we did exceed our .4 mile average pulse and made it all the way to the road. My friend Rico and I looked at each other. We saw it in each other’s eyes — we were disappointed. We did not have 1 more hour together to enjoy our dance break. Then, we thought — this is crazy! It is 3 AM and we want to stop for another hour?! But we did and it was magical.

Promote Your Theme Camp and Events with a Promo on BMIR!

BMIR, people!
BMIR, people!

BMIR, Burning Man Information Radio (94.5FM on the playa and on the internet), is the best way to let the citizens of Black Rock City know about your theme camp, art installation or events. Now that you know your playa address it’s the perfect time to create a promo telling every one all about it. BMIR would LOVE to have them in hand before they leave for the playa so they can start running them on the air ASAP.

BMIR is going to start running theme camp and event promo announcements as soon as you can get them to us. You can tune in to BMIR via the internet and hear about what the playa has in store for you. Many people now stream BMIR on their smartphones during their drive to the playa. We’ll be live from the playa sometime on Wednesday 8/20 — listen in to find out about the weather, late breaking news you need to know, and info on how the city is coming together.

If someone in your camp is an audio whiz they can send us your promos at any time. Not sure how to record something ahead of time? No worries! J Kanizzle, BMIR’s Co-Station Manager, has put together this handy tutorial that shows you how to download and configure Audacity, a free audio recording program. The tutorial then takes you through the basics of creating your very own announcement.

Once you have something recorded, or if you have any questions, please email BMIR at BMIR here: BMIR (at) before August 20.

Remember to let people know the basics: what, where and when. Please keep announcements under 60 seconds and send them to us in .mp3 format at 320kbps. Please don’t send us 10 announcements for all of your individual events. Most camps send one announcement.

Can’t make the August 20 deadline? You can also put your announcements on a CD or flash drive and hand deliver them to BMIR on the playa. BMIR is located in Center Camp, 1:15 and Rod’s Road, right between Ranger HQ and The Earth Guardians.

Now if you just can’t pull this off, no worries. The BMIR Production Studio will be open every day from 12N to 4PM during the event. You can come in and we will help you record an announcement right on the playa.

The Caravansary Souk — A Call for Participation!

The Man, surrounded by the Souk. (Rendering by Andrew Johnstone)
The Man, surrounded by the Souk. (Rendering by Andrew Johnstone)

What is The Caravansary Souk?
This year the Man will be surrounded by a colorful circle of tents known as the Souk. This new public space will be a bustling marketplace where nothing is for sale, devoted to gifting, cultural exchange, interactive performance, and a playful commerce in ideas. Stalls in the Souk will be staffed by 25 unmerchant groups from the Burning Man Regional Network.

Celebrate the Souk Grand Opening!
Monday, August 25 at the feet of the Man, 7-9 pm
Every journey on the Silk Road needs a celebration of welcoming and rejoicing with fellow travelers. All are invited to participate in the Grand Opening/Going Out of Business Extravaganza in the Caravansary Souk. As the sun sets on the first of seven magical nights, explore and discover exotic delights and unattainable wares as you connect with your community from around the world.
The festivities will be kicked off by a grand parade starting at the Everywhere pavilion and leading into the Souk. Those who wish to join in the parade are asked to assemble at Everywhere by 6:30 pm. The extravaganza in the Souk will commence at 7:00 pm and run through 9:00 pm. Performers of all stripes invited!!

Contact souk2014-grand-opening here: souk2014-grand-opening (at) if you want to perform or contribute in some way!

Al-Ari Invites Traveling Performers to Participate in the Souk!
To enliven the festive atmosphere of the Souk plaza, caravan master Larry “Al-Ari” Harvey extends his personal invitation to itinerant jugglers, acrobats, fortune tellers, magicians, seers, fakirs, sadhus, strongmen, sword swallowers, fire eaters, dervishes, human statuary, and dancing sign-shakers to bless us with the gift of performance in the Souk throughout the week.