We deliver to the Playa

Advice for Theme Camp Managers (new and seasoned).

February 23, 2014

Playa Bike Repair was recently asked to participate in a forum about Theme Camps.  Afterward, we were asked to put our advice in an email, so that it could be forwarded to the participants.  This is what I wrote.

a) Everything takes longer on the playa.  We set up four 20x20 event tents and sound system for a party in sf once.  It took 2 day laborers 4 hours.  That same set up on the playa took 4 software engineers 4 days.   
b) If you want to build a 24' tall tower, plan to build it 8' tall instead.  That way, something will actually get built.  Otherwise, you might find yourself saying, "The tower?  It's still in the truck."  Or, "That didn't happen."
c) If you find yourself behind schedule, there's only ONE reason to quit building!  "It's time to tear it down."
d) Managing a camp is a new experience for many people.  Some camp leaders have no prior experience with authority, nor management.  The camp itself will likely be filled with people who hate authority in general.  This dichotomy is what makes it interesting.

Okay, seriously:

e) You can buy a used 48' semi-trailer for about $2k.  Once empty, a semi-trailer can be turned into a dust free kitchen, chill space, sleeping quarters, etc.  Hang lights, shade and signage from the roof.  Maintenance costs are minimal.  License and Registration for a trailer - any trailer - is $50.00, and it's valid FIVE years. Economically, it's one of the best options available.
f) The more support you can provide for your campmates the more time they can devote to your theme (vs logistics).  At Playa Bike Repair, the camp provides food, ice, showers, shade, shelter, water, etc.  Whatever people need.  That enables people to focus on fixing bikes.
g) Cover as much of your camp as possible, and the area in front of your camp (in our case, the plaza) with used billboards.  They are cheap or free; last several years; easy to clean, store, and transport; and will stay flat with or without stakes.  Far easier than picking up moop, especially if your moop consists of small items (like valve stem covers from bikes).  The mesh one's that let the air flow through are easier to clean, and lighter too. 
h) In our opinion, "Gifting" is often misunderstood. People come into our camp, we fix their flat tires, and in exchange, they sometimes offer us a 'Burning Man branded lighter.'  Only, we don't really want that lighter.  We want people join a theme camp (and that's your gift to the playa; ie, it is not a 1:1 transaction.)  Most people who offer us lighters are virgins who read something about "gifting" prior to arrival.  We often ask them to hang out, and help for an hour.  Most oblige. Some never leave.  We like lighters, not for the flame, but the spark.
I) Read my stories.  They're full of meaningful information, and they're funny.
The Best of Burning Man
How Much Does Burning Man Really Cost