Equinox enthusiast answers the ‘burning’ questions
3rd Annual Burnal Equinox
When: 2 p.m. Saturday, March 2, to 1 a.m. Sunday, March 3
Where: Miners Foundry, 325 Spring St., Nevada City
Cost: $20 advance/$25 at the door
Tickets and info: Call (530) 265-5462, visit www.nevadacityboxoffice.org or go to Briar Patch Co-Op, 290 Sierra College Drive, Suite. A, Grass Valley
Presented by: Sacramento Valley Spark and the Gold Country Burners
In 2011, Coryon Redd had some interesting changes in his personal and professional life. Plus, he turned 40. It seemed like a perfect time to take in his first Burning Man, the annual “out-of-the-box” festival in the Black Rock Desert in northern Nevada.
Besides, their theme that year happened to be “Rites of Passage.”
“I invented a game called ‘Jedi Training School,’” Redd said. “My friend and I made a bunch of badass light sabers and bought close to 100 LED light-up Frisbees. The rules are simple: You hold the light saber while I chuck Frisbees at you. Don’t get hit and look good when you’re doing it.”
For anyone unfamiliar with the concept behind Burning Man, it’s a festival dedicated to community, art, self-expression and self-reliance. And did I mention there’s a lot of fire involved? To see for yourself, a smaller-scale version, called “Burnal Equinox,” will be held at Miners Foundry in Nevada City on Saturday (halfway between Burning Man events).
We talked with Redd, the head of community outreach for Gold Country Burners, who, along with Sacramento Valley Spark, is organizing Saturday’s event.
We touched on the “10 Principles of Burning Man” that reflect the spirit and philosophy of the ever-expanding culture.
1. Radical Inclusion
Anyone may be a part of Burning Man
Are participants getting less “radical” as time goes on?
“The biggest change, as the event has grown, is you see a much higher percentage of newbies. It used to be a techie-geeky crowd, but now there’s more young women wearing very little. A lot of “looky-loos” that are not as participatory.”
Burning Man is devoted to acts of giving
Give us an example of something someone might give.
“A full organic fruit and vegetable stand passed out fresh cucumber and dill salad and organic tri-tip. Half a block down, they set up a cabana bar with misters and an awning and a blender — powered by a chain saw motor — making daiquiris. Then a hot dog cart came by and everything was free, with no expectation of barter or exchange. It’s who can give away the most.”
No commercial sponsorships, transactions or advertising
Have you been approached by advertisers and/or underwriters?
“We had a volunteer who said ‘my son will do that for a credit or a shout out,’ but that doesn’t fly. It’s not stuff you would normally do in a business, but as an officially sanctioned event, the rules are very clear. It’s really a social commodity about giving stuff away.”
4. Radical Self-reliance
Encourage the individual to discover, exercise and rely on their inner resources
Have Libertarians found a foothold at this festival?
“No, it tends to be sex drugs and rock & roll, all within the lens of being in the desert for a week. “Sparkle pony” girls are what we call the ones not prepared. They go from camp to camp begging for sunscreen and water.”
5. Radical Self-expression
From the unique gifts of the individual
What has been the coolest thing you’ve seen “self-expressed?”
“The 120-foot-long wooden pier built from edge of camp into the desert made with reclaimed, begged and borrowed wood. The next year, they crashed a giant ship into it. The attention to detail was stunning. They had a water effect that made the desert look like slowly shimmering water. But self identification usually comes from having gone to Burning Man at least once and experienced the principles of honesty, integrity and freaky self-realization. People you would normally see in a business suit may be wearing fishnet stockings because that’s what they want to do.”
6. Communal Effort
Produce, promote and protect social networks, public spaces and art
Do the proceeds from this event benefit anything?
“The Burning Man organization gives out art grants and helps nonprofits and relief efforts. Technically, Sparks handles the BE3 money, but once Gold Country Burners is an official organization, we’ll get the money for grants to local artists and community building.”
7. Civic Responsibility
Communicate civic responsibilities to participants and conduct events in accordance with local, state and federal laws
How does local law enforcement gear up for this?
“The local community outreach officer is very familiar with the event, and we’ve worked with the fire department as well. I am actually handing out flyers right now to let the neighbors know they may hear ‘poofing’ sounds from fire art on Saturday. And we’ve hired independent security.”
8. Leaving No Trace
We clean up after ourselves and leave places in a better state than we found them
Have you witnessed what Burning Man looks like after the event is over?
“It is amazing what they do. They give daily reports during cleanup as to how it’s going and what they’ve found. The parks service inspects it every year. If I was at a softball game, I would expect the stands to be trashed because that’s the culture. If you drop something casually at Burning Man you would have somebody running after you.”
Everyone is invited to work, everyone is invited to play
How many people does it take to organize and run this event and do you have enough volunteers?
“We have a solid core of about 20, and another 30 volunteers. We still have some small gaps, nothing mission critical. The “Shenanigans committee” needs a lead. Their sole responsibility is to mess with people. We need people to offer floor and couch space to out-of-town burners. All of the hotels in Nevada City are filled. We are not an official organization, yet, but have been impressed by how well-run the meetings are, facilitated by Beth Moore. You would think a bunch of burners would be disorganized, but I have sat in on many a business meeting I wish were run like this, it’s very cool to be a part of.”
Immediate experience is the most important touchstone of value in our culture
Does this have anything to do with “living in the moment?”
“Yes. You can tie it to Zen if you’d like. It’s about being present. I do a lot of business networking. At Burning Man, my occupation came up maybe once, where normally it would be one of the first questions.”