For many Burners, Center Camp exists only as a place to purchase coffee, tea and blended drinks. But there’s a lot more to Center Camp than just a faux Starbucks. For 24 hours every day of Burning Man, something entertaining is going on either at one of Center Camp’s two stages, or inside the circus ring.
You’ll find music – both vocal and instrumental acts that range from folk to rock to opera. There will also be stand-up comedy, poetry readings, drama and even a fasion show. And in the circus ring, there will be performances similar to what you’d see at Cirque du Soleil. In other parts of Center Camp you’ll find people giving foot and full body massages (all, of course, for free).
The performance schedule is (mostly) listed in the “What, When, Where Guide” you receive at the Greeters’ Station; however, the acts frequently change and last minute substitutions are common.
There’s also plenty of art to be enjoyed both inside and outside Center Camp (the picture at the top of this blog page was the main entrance to Center Camp at a recent Burn); and, in a strong dust storm, Center Camp is one of the Playa’s best refuges. There will still be dust in the air, but at a much lower level than you’ll find on the open Playa.
There’s plenty of bike parking space at Center Camp, but – fair warning – you should lock your bike once you park it. Burners intent on purloining new bikes for themselves can find easy pickings among those parked at Center Camp.
Toward the end of the week of Burning Man, there’s a “Battle of the Marching Bands” contest held at Center Camp. We’ve always found this event both hilarious and entertaining, plus you get to vote on the acts with your applause. Some of the bands are rag-tag ensembles (such as the irresistable Burning Band), and some are highly polished (such as March Fourth — the winner a few years ago that went on to play professionally; or the all-percussion Indian-based band that specializes in the rhythms and sounds of the Indian sub-continent).
The Center Camp Cafe and coffee bar is surprisingly good, with experienced baristas and drinks ranging from regular coffee through espresso blends to non-coffee drinks. The offerings are relatively inexpensive, and the long lines that sometimes form provide opportunities to meet new people or gift others a free drink. Sometimes we leave $10 or $20 and tell the barista to take care of the next few customers until the money has run out.
So whether you just stop by the Center Camp Café for a coffee, stumble in by accident, or go purposefully to watch a scheduled performance, you’ll find plenty of entertainment there and a respite from the hot weather and dust storms that mark life on the Playa.
By the way, one of the best volunteer activities is working at the Center Camp Café. Barista experience helps, but isn’t required. Just check out the volunteer opportunities at www.burningman.org, or stop by the volunteer center that’s just a few feet away from Center Camp.