2019 MPYRE Strikes Back
Saturday, June 1, 2019
12p – 10p
MPYRE – Monterey Burning Man Regional Group has produced a community gathering at Del Monte Beach, Monterey Bay Park since 2009. The summer event, MPYRE Strikes Back, follows the Ten Principles of Burning Man, and welcomes the public to its one-day celebration
Completely volunteer-produced, MPYRE Strikes Back is the first, ongoing, free-to-the-public Official Regional Burning Man Event in the world. Community members set up sounds stages, art projects, costume exchanges, kid’s activities, as well as inviting live dance and music performances, DJ music sets, fire spinners—all with the intention of creating and connecting people to each other and to themselves in a welcoming, creative atmosphere—a temporary community where everyone is encouraged to join.
Attendance was even, with a nice flow throughout the day into night. Without tickets or a gate, and on the public beach where participants and attendees can arrive from many different directions, we can only guess at actual numbers. Over the 10 hours, we estimate 300-400 people joined the celebration, with most people on the beach from 3p to 10p.
All ages, from young kids to seniors, were present, though the majority were adults ages 20–50 years. Early in the afternoon, we saw more families with young children than in past years. Most attendees are local to Monterey Bay, from Big Sur to Santa Cruz. Sacramento, Bay Area, and Santa Clara County were also well represented.
We heard only positive comments about the event itself, with all happy to join the gathering, whether happening upon us by accident or by design. The weather was cooler than 2018 but didn’t keep people away. The communal feeling was relaxed and warm, and many new connections were made.
At a suggested contribution of $10/person, donations were excellent this year, the best of any MPYRE event to date. With donation request announcements from the main stage, and great greeter engagement, day-of donations totaled $1342. The City of Monterey’s Special Event Grant Program again was very helpful to producing our event. But it is great to see that we would have been in the black this year, even without the City’s grant.
Day of Donations $1342.00
City of Monterey Grant $500.00
Porta Potties $280.93
Badges & Signs $39.48
We had a decent turnout for set up of all spaces: two sound stages, effigy & fire ring, costume swap, one art theme camp, two interactive art installations, one craft activity and greeters. Load out was efficient, with many people helping to break down the event, and the beach was clear by 11:30p.
With the greeter’s station placed next to the bike path, passersby could easily learn about Burning Man, both about our local group, as well as the annual event in Nevada. Burning Man literature, information, and email subscription sign up to our local list were available.
We had a sufficient crew of greeters for the first half of the event, but shift sign ups were sparse in the afternoon. Thank you to Surra for leading greeters for the first time and being on duty much of the afternoon into evening. She suggested shortening the greeter shifts to one hour, instead of two hours.
Suggestions for improvement: Being based in Santa Cruz, Surra thinks having a local Monterey community member lead greeters next year will increase sign ups.
Walt Slaven designed and built the Man effigy this year, his first piece for MPYRE. All were delighted with his moveable arms and figure details, and at over 5’ tall, he had great presence on the beach.
Lilly Scott installed a memorial art project with canvases, paint, and markers, welcoming all to release through their contribution to the pieces. A number of the canvases were added to the effigy burn at sunset.
Rachel Corvese brought live art painting with one large canvas available to participants. The display also included a number of her other paintings, all which inspired and contributed to the interactive painting, resulting in a beautiful collaboration.
The unSCruz Water Temple crew brought one section of their piece, originally installed at May’s unSCruz: Bizarre Bazaar at Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds—very striking to have near water!
Carla Carpenter offered a button making craft activity this year. A fun activity for all ages, unfortunately the cold weather caused cold hands and fingers, making the craft hard to execute.
Suggestions for improvement: Including more craft projects: potentially creating an art and craft treasure map for creation stations and greater engagement; better signage for interactive art and crafts.
Theme Camps and Public Participation
Mementomoriam joined us for the first time. Taking a break in the camp’s sensory deprivation chamber, participants could explore a quiet interlude on the beach, perhaps finding a different perspective in a few moments of dark and silence.
Renamed Swap Salon this year, our costume swap is always super fun and popular. The Cat’s Meow again donated, and with the always great contributions from our community, Elsa’s dressing room was beautifully decorated and stocked with costume and dress-up options.
Suggestions for improvement: Earlier invitations to theme camps and other artists, so more interested community members may co-create our annual celebration.
Lucho Yanez, our original DJ wrangler and beloved music master retired from leading sound for MPYRE. Carly LaFontaine and Carri Newhouse stepped up as co-sound leads. For their first time managing, they did a great job selecting and scheduling DJs and gathering the sound set-ups and shade structures for the two stages. As well, they learned a lot about all the other ‘stage manager’ details Lucho handled so seamlessly.
Suggestions for improvement: Recruit a main stage sound lead; Carly will lead the second stage; both sound leads will collaborate to select DJs and live performers; live performance is best on the main stage only; live performers need to bring their own sound set ups, so there are no technical conflicts with existing sound equipment; create a list of all sound equipment needed to coordinate and confirm sound equipment donated; perhaps recruit a stage manager to oversee and manage DJ transitions, live performer equipment and/or playlists.
We welcomed three groups for live performance this year: Destiny Sun, Hipnautic Flowers Belly Dance Tribe, and Samba Legal. Destiny Sun took the first set on the second stage, with Hipnautic Flowers performing later in the afternoon on the main stage, and Samba Legal starting their set for the effigy lighting. Having live performers participating on the sand brings a special energy to the day.
Effigy lighting started at 8:30p with Walt lighting the Man. The fire started slowly and included fuel that burned in colors, a really nice effect.
Suggestions for improvement: Creating an effigy burn and safety plan to describe and follow procedures for future effigy burns.
Fire performers gathered at 7:45pm for a mandatory safety meeting. Safety procedures: tool fueling procedure, dip can lock down, and spin out area procedures were reviewed. Also discussed were performance circle etiquette, forming a queue for performance order, and entering/exiting the performance area.
As usual, care was taken to place the fuel station far enough away from traffic but still close enough to maintain a clear path to the performance area. The performance circle was large enough to safely support three performers at a time. At least one safety person with a duvatyne cloth, to suffocate any uncontrolled flames, watched the circle at all times performers were lit.
Fire spinning started at sunset, approximately 8:45pm and continued to 10:00pm, when all music and performance ended. Fire spinning has always been one of the highlights of our beach celebration, and this year was just as every year has been—mesmerizing and dramatic!
Even with timely press releases, local media coverage was quieter than in past years.
A majority of our non-local Burning Man community heard of the event through social media and Burning Man email announcement lists, both specific regional groups and Jack Rabbit Speaks, the primary Burning Man email newsletter
Suggestions for improvement: Connect to friends in local media outlets for better pre-event media exposure.
Ranger Sir Jayjay was lead this year, taking over for Triumph who retired last year. Six beloved khakis, new and returning, were in attendance, ready to facilitate, support, and help anyone in need of a chat, a drink of water, a place to sit, or a band aid. Happy to report the day was uneventful in terms of issues!
Monterey PD did not stop by our gathering. Second year in a row that no complaints were called in!
Leave No Trace (LNT)
The City of Monterey donated recycle cans and liners, along with a recycling dumpster at the Municipal Wharf. With several trash and recycle barrels set up in the event space, we made sure garbage was collected in the bins, and not on the sand.
The next morning, four MPYREians showed up to help with our final beach Leave No Trace sweep. All recycle bins had been sorted through by conscientious recyclers, and we dropped off the borrowed bins at the dumpster. Again this year, our community members did a great job picking up all moop. The LNT walk filled one plastic grocery bag with the usual: cigarette butts, zip ties, candy wrappers, and etc. We love leaving our Del Monte Beach home cleaner than we found it!
MPYRE – Monterey Burners has been awarded a City of Monterey Special Events Grant for 2019-20 fiscal year.
MPYRE Strikes Back! is scheduled for June 6, 2020.