The past weekend I went to the 2009 Florida PreHeat regional Burning Man event. About 500 people were in attendance (or so I heard) at a ranch in Lakeland, Florida having come from places as far away as Miami or Atlanta.
From my experience it was closer to one of the weekend campouts that I recall from being in California than a Mini-Burning Man. There were seven camps with a music theme, 3 with a DJs selecting the music and one a live band type, with an energetic drummer! The remainder seemingly offering pre-recorded/pre-selected tunes. One mutant vehicle traveled the place, a golf cart bed, while the rest of the art vehicles being 2 golf carts with some lights added. Costumes and outfits were OK. Many people opting to remain in their street clothes for the weekend. Hoopers and poi spinners were out and about with a handful using fire.
The biggest disappointment came on Saturday night (say 10:30pm) when the organizer had all of the camps turn off the music and seemingly cease other activities to focus attention at performances on a single stage. Despite that an hour or so later the music came back on the existing vibe was killed and had to rebuild again. I also was missing any disruptive or thought provoking art. Only two installation pieces were in the open area, a large metal fish hooked up to propane (that I misses going off), and four foot flower that looked like something from Second Life. Fire art was non existent outside of poi spinners and hoopers although one individual brought a homemade propane torch that shot flame almost 20 feet straight up.
My participation was limited to individual interactions. When I wasn’t engaging with others I was meandering about the event with thoughts wandering. I found myself most often thinking about subtlety and also the interplay and differences of perception, reality, and unreality. I did not take too many pictures as I wanted to stay fairly immersed in the event and I find that a camera can separate me from the goings on. I did learn a new game, Go Stop, a very popular Korean card game whose rules and game play I am still deciphering.
Calamity and I arrived Friday night just as the sun set and stayed through Sunday morning. We met some people and have hopes of working with them to take the next event, Florida Afterburn, to another level. Living in San Francisco with the pervasive Burning Man culture gives a person a different spin on this event. It was my impression that many of the attendees do not express themselves outside the event nor follow the Burning Man precepts outside the event as do a comparable contingent of SF residents. I’m interested in attending other regional events and seeing what differences are present as you get geographically closer to San Francisco and Black Rock Desert eg. Dark Skies in Las Vegas and Burning Flipside near Austin.
Sunday after returning home we cleaned up our gear, snacked on some food, played cards and watched Wall*E and Babylon 5. It was a great weekend and I am looking forward to what comes next.
In my initial post I forgot several key things. Like thanking all those that invested time and energy into making the event a success. I did not get the chance to meet the organizers of the event, nor to encounter (that I know of) many of those that also contributed as volunteers over the weekend. Thank you. You pulled off an event that helped rejuvenate me. It has been over a year since I have had the opportunity to interact with a community of like minded people and I truly appreciated the experience!
There were many virgins at the event, either PreHeat virgins (like myself) or virgins to Burning Man culture. With PreHeat being so new (2 years) and having doubled in size to nearly 500 people there number of new people is a large proportion of the population. My above comments were based on the people I met who were by and large virgins. I missed encountering many of the Burners established in the community and I think while inadvertently putting my foot in my mouth may not make for the best introduction I am now meeting more of the passionate members of the community. Reiterating from the initial post I have hopes to invest more energy in future events and am willing to contribute where needed.