One of the wonderful things about early arrival and staying late at Burning Man – is that you get to experience a more complete evolution of this temporary city. Each day at Burning Man has a different energy as the population rises and falls.
Prior to gate open, you know that everyone around you at Black Rock City has spent time building the city in anticipation of gate open. Whether it be on art projects, setting up theme camps, building center camp, working gate & perimeter or building the infrastructure. We’re all city builders. You arrive to your camp and you have open space around you – camps several blocks over seem just a quick stroll away. Our days and nights are spent building with occasional parties to share stories of the projects we’re involved on.
And then just before 12:01a on Monday morning, we gather at the edge of the city and look at the massive line of headlights leading in from Gerlach. The party rumbles as we wait for the flood gates to open. The anticipation builds with each minute, for not much longer will we be exclusive residents of the city, it becomes open to all. All night long the virgin bell tolls as each new citizen of Black Rock City is initiated. It’s beautiful music to the ears. We retreat to our theme camps, and await greeting our first arrivals and help them get settled in. This can take all night long.
Early in the week the population is about half of what it will peak at. The residents of Black Rock City at this point are not here just for a party. They’re here to be part of building something up too. They assist with completing the build projects the early arrival crews started on. They help open the interactive theme camps. With each hour, the landscape of the city shifts and changes. Your block becomes more a part of your immediate world, and structures you saw only hours ago are no longer visible. Camps that yesterday were a quick stroll now seem distant and remote. The streets become more chaotic with bicycles, pedestrians, art cars and new arrivals trying to find their spot.
By Thursday and Friday evening, the majority of the population is through the gates. Theme camps are roaring with activity, music, dancing, mingling, water misting and more. Most art projects are open and interactive. The nightscape of lights on the open playa is full on.
Folks who arrive for the final weekend arrive to chaos and full on energy. They don’t ramp up with it like the rest of us, they just plop themselves right in. Most build projects at this point are done, so late week arrivals don’t have the opportunity to bond and connect with their fellow citizens in this way. They must engage their social skills to come up to speed on connections that have been ramping up with the start of the city. Some thrive on this, others might feel overwhelmed and a bit like an outsider to a community already built.
Over the next three nights the major burns happen – usually a massive art project on Friday evening that helps build up the energy for the weekend. Much of the population only stays for the carnival like celebration of the Man burning on Saturday evening, for that is what is seemed to be the culmination of an event called ‘Burning Man’. But for those who stick out the heat, wind and dust another day – they will be treated to the tremendous emotional release of the Temple Burn on a somber Sunday night.
And then Monday morning, the city scape looks much like pre-gate opening – expansive open lands and only those staying who intend to help with the break down of the city.