When to party; when to rest

Burning Man is a 24 hour-a-day festival, with activities from early morning to very, very late night.  There’s no way to do it all, and that’s especially true for those of us more mature Burners.  We have to conserve our energy.  For those of you who have attended Burning Man in the past, most of this advice will come as no surprise.  But our site is mainly intended for new Burners who do not have the benefit of long experience.

While everyone is different in how they deal with the heat of the desert, I personally find it better to explore Burning Man during the cooler parts of the day, and rest when it’s too hot to enjoy yourself.  Early morning is a great time for touring the Playa, seeing artwork and planning your evening.  Not only is it cool in the early morning, but there also aren’t that many people out and about.  Remember your cup and even a paper or plastic plate and utensils because there are a number of possible breakfast stops for the early riser.  Several pancake camps are open early with their delicious fare.  If you’re early enough, there won’t be a line.  Of course, it’s all gifted to you.

There’s nothing quite like a Playa sunrise, which is another reason to be up and about early in the morning.  The fact is, you’ll practically have the Playa to yourself if you’re up early.

While you’re out in the cooler part of the day bring your activities brochure with you so you can search for places you might want to visit later.  Get used to the layout (is 9 o’clock to my right or to my left?) and identify the precise locations of camps and events you want to visit.  Remember, not everything is happening on the Esplanade.

In my personal experience, mid-day is the best time to rest up.  It’s as hot and uncomfortable as the desert gets during this time, and you’re more likely to suffer heat exhaustion and dehydration.  Save up your energy for nighttime when the action really gets going and the temperatures moderate.

But you should also keep in mind that nights can be very cool, so you should be prepared to dress in warmer clothing once the sun has set.  Staying in your lightweight, daytime dress at night can result in serious exposure problems and a possible visit to the medical tent.  Nighttime is also the time when people come out in their Playa finery – the costumes they worked on all year.  It’s great to have a costume or two, but not necessary – especially for your first year.  Just remember that nights are very dark on the Playa and you’ll need lights on your person and your bikes.  More about lighting yourself up in a future article.

Lights from a party art car

Night is also the time for big parties with plenty of music and dancing.  If that’s what you’re looking for, then sample a few places and find the style that suits you.  There are also plenty of musical art cars with parties and lots of dancing on board.  Nighttime is party time at Burning Man.

Volunteering: Greeters

Despite the focus on tickets seemingly by the entire Burning Man community, we here at Sunrise Burners will continue to provide information on the 2012 burn for people 50 and over.  To read the latest on the ticket issue, we suggest you check on the Burning Blog at http://bit.ly/wuXalo.

Another great volunteer opportunity that I strongly recommend is taking a Greeter shift.  There’s nothing quite like standing at the gate and welcoming new and returning people to Burning Man with the words “Welcome Home.”  The look of excitement in their eyes as they arrive at the iconic festival is energizing.

However, your job as a Greeter is far more than just the welcome.  There’s important information that you’ll be trained to deliver – including warnings about driving too fast between the gate and your campsite (yes, you will be ticketed by BLM Rangers for speeding), instructions about the Leave No Trace principles and reminders to stay hydrated.  Greeters are also responsible for handing out the festival guide that lists almost all of the 24/7 activities scheduled to take place during the week.

One way to arrive in style on the Playa

The best job as a Greeter is welcoming first-timers – “virgin burners.”  Every virgin burner has to ring the virgin bell and declare themselves “not a virgin” anymore.  Typically, Greeters also ask the virgins to make some kind of sacrifice to the playa – such as making dust angels on the playa surface.  I like to tell them that they’re becoming one with the playa at that moment.

Some virgins – especially those from out of the country – might be asked to sing their national anthem.  It’s the gentlest of hazing, and it’s a Burning Man tradition.

What’s physically required of a Greeter is your ability to stand up for a long shift (usually three or four hours), and use your voice.  As a Greeter, you’re encouraged to wear playa finery so the newcomers get the right impression of the fun and whimsy of the event.  One day a week is usually “naked Greeters day,” so you want to check your shift carefully if you prefer to be clothed.

To find out more about Greeters and Greeters Camp, contact toplessdeb@gmail.com.

More volunteer ideas to come, but I also want to encourage our experienced readers to send their own ideas in so we can publish a broader array of volunteer opportunities.

As always, thanks for visiting Sunrise Burners.  See you on the playa.

Volunteering: Lamplighters

There are many ways to experience Burning Man, including just absorbing it all and enjoying yourself by doing so.  But for some, getting engaged more fully is the way to go.  Volunteering for one of the many Burning Man activities is one way to enrich your experience and engage in the festival in a meaningful way.  This article is one of several we plan to publish on volunteer opportunities.  We hope others will contribute their experiences as volunteers, helping to identify situations that are well suited to people in our age group.

Many of you who read this site already know that my wife and I stay at Lamplighters camp, but you may not be aware of the fact that everyone at Burning Man is eligible to volunteer as a Lamplighter any evening.

Lamplighters light the city nightly in a ceremony that has become an iconic part of the Burning Man experience.  It takes volunteers from throughout the community to move nearly 1,000 kerosene lanterns out each night.  We generally begin the process at 5 p.m., which is when volunteers should arrive at Lamplighter’s temple adjacent to Center Camp.  One of the first things volunteers do when they arrive is sign up for a specific duty.

Lamplighters get a ride home on Luci

There are three volunteer roles to play in the ceremony – carrier, lifter and support.  Carriers walk with a post supporting 10 or 12 lamps which are put one by one up on wooden lampposts.  Lifters pick the lanterns off the posts with long, specially designed polls and hoist the lamps up to hooks near the top of lampposts.  Support people make sure the lamps stay lit and help lifters get lamps onto their polls.

For people our age, I generally don’t recommend the carrier role.  I’ve personally done it (once!) and it’s fine if you’re a strong person with a good back.  But it’s the most physically demanding job and should only be undertaken if you’re confident you can handle it.  To me, lifters and support are better jobs for us.

You’ll get to wear our Lamplighter robes when you participate.  They make you look a bit like an Arab sheik.  The entire ceremony is a site to behold with the leaders calling out “make way for the Lamplighters,” and the citizens of Black Rock City calling back, “thank you Lamplighters.”

By the way, if you don’t want to walk in the ceremony, you can also volunteer as a rober — helping drape the ceremonial Lamplighters in appropriate garb.

And, to top it all off, you get a specially designed Lamplighter charm for being one of our volunteers.  You can learn more by inquiring at Lamplighters camp or simply by showing up at the Lamplighters temple at 5 p.m.  Hope to see you there.