This year marked the 21st edition of Burning Flipside. Our theme this year, Sisyphean Celebration, challenged us to improve our spelling and our knowledge of Greek mythology, and symbolized our annual cycle of creation and destruction, in which we leave behind nothing of substance, but find fulfillment in the journey.
Every participant’s experience is different, and in any given year, some people will have wonderful experiences and some will have terrible ones. But the general impression is that this was an especially enjoyable, low-key event.
Tickets & Attendance
In 2019, 2750 tickets were sold and 2649 were used, for a no-show rate of about 4%. For comparison, in 2018, 2710 tickets were sold, and 2627 used, for a no-show rate of about 3%, and in 2017, 3017 tickets were sold and 2870 were used, for a no-show rate of about 5%.
As was the case last year, there was no public second-round ticket sale, apart from a small number of set-aside tickets for critical volunteers.
- The weather was relatively hot and humid (less so than last year), and dry apart from rain the Tuesday before the event started. Daytime highs were about 90°F with a heat index of about 105°F. Overnight lows were pleasant. About the best weather we could hope for. There were a couple of water-mocassin sightings and the usual assortment of scorpions and fire ants. A dead tree was felled on the property right before the event started. Laneport Dam upstream on the San Gabriel was releasing about 1850 cfm, resulting in a deep, fast flowing river. Although some participants waded in thigh-deep, everyone seemed to recognize that it was not safe for swimming.
- There were three ambulance transports and one transport to hospital in a personally operated vehicle. Although some of the people presenting at the medical tent were suffering from the heat, in contrast to 2018, none of these transports were heat-related. There was no clear trend in medical problems serious enough to require transport this year.
- There were no external sound complaints. The few internal sound complaints were handled quickly.
- There were no ejections this year. As always, if you experienced or witnessed a problematic interaction, check out the Interpersonal Incident FAQ to see how the organization can respond.
- There were no unplanned fire incidents. There were three unattended fires that were resolved with warnings.
- No gatecrashers were detected. Some drivers passing by did stop, but were kept moving by the off-duty deputies the event hires.
In addition to this year’s effigy, there were three burnable-art pieces: “Big Top Mountain,” “Wee Burn,” and a memorial to a deceased ranger, Bobcat. There were 73 registered art pieces in total, making this a record year for art.
The effigy itself, “We’ll Meet Again,” represented a couple of firsts: it was the first time a Flipside effigy directly referenced the Man at Burning Man, and the first time it had an electromechanical kinetic feature–the Man’s legs. In keeping with this year’s theme, the effigy crew, known as the Design and Fabrication Team, toiled until the last minute to get the legs working. One must imagine DaFT as happy.
Although ticket money is not used to fund art projects at Burning Flipside, there have been a number of independent art-granting bodies associated with Flipside over the years, with the current one being Ignition Philter. Participants have the option of sending a contribution to Ignition Philter along with their ticket request. This year, Ignition Philter raised $3228 from these contributions.
Theme Camps & City Planning
There were 139 registered theme camps, plus an unknown number of informal camps in the Badlands. There were at least 200 RVs at this year’s event. Although the event population has been stable for some years, demand for space has been growing due to RVs.
In 2018, there was a problem with cars remaining inappropriately parked in camp. To discourage this, the organization was more aggressive about towing cars in 2019.
Safetyside, a weekend-long training workshop for Safety teams held about six weeks before the event, continues to play a key role in creating a cohesive safety organization, lowering walls between departments, teaching the principles of Incident Command System as well as department-specific training, and giving participants a chance to bond with each other. Attendance was roughly the same as for the past few years, and this year Safetyside welcomed a couple of representatives from the Burning Man organization. Blustery weather interfered with this year’s Safetyside to some extent, preventing a practice burn at which participants learn how to work a burn perimeter.
Work weekends & Site Prep
Work weekends faced weather challenges from the get-go. The February one was cold. The March one was cold AND wet. The April one was wet, cold, and windy (and coincided with Safetyside), and the May one was just wet–really wet.
That kept the turnout light, but thankfully, the land is in pretty good shape, and those who attended were dedicated. Work-weekend volunteers covered some low spots with roadbase, burned a lot of downed brush piles, and killed as many fire ants as possible.
There was some extra work during load-in due to late storms.
Load-in, the Saturday before Flipside when we ship all the event’s infrastructure out to the event site, was well-supported this year. We experimented with renting two trucks the night before to get the bulk of the Effigy loaded beforehand, and this was found to work well.
Exodus went extremely well this year with almost all participants off land by the 5pm deadline. There were two mechanical issues that required vehicles remain behind Monday night but were removed on Tuesday by participants who found other manners of transportation off property on Monday.
Clean up efforts were primarily accomplished Saturday post event. Overall most camps took LNT seriously and removed their MOOP. A few line volunteers did line sweeps and what little MOOP was left was removed. A detailed report on the few infractions noted is still being drawn up. With DaFT and other volunteers braving the hot sun the burn scar was cleaned and all ash and metal was handled. One item of note is that the Pyro lead noted on Tuesday that the upper effigy field was cleaned sometime Monday to his great surprise and delight.
Saturday post event, approximately 40 hard-charging volunteers participated in loading four trucks with infrastructure to be returned to the warehouse where other volunteers helped unload. This was not a sufficient number of volunteers and seems to continue a downward trend in post event volunteerism that occurred since Floodside. None-the-less, while hot and tired, it did seem the volunteers were in good spirits and helped out excellently.