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THEME CAMPS

All Questionnaires and plans due by the last Thursday in April. For exact deadlines, please visit forms.burningman.com.

"Theme camps are the interactive core of Burning Man." Harley K. DuBois, Burning Man's Director of Community Services & Playa Safety Council, hesitated a second. "I hate to call this a rule, but if I have to have one it's simple: A theme camp must be participatory." It's a playful challenge to the vast reductive desert landscape, an expansion of the infectious celebratory nature of the event. "The camps keep getting bigger and better, more thought-out and polished. But," she spoke firmly now, "you always welcome anybody and everybody." We offer some guidelines to help you plan your project.

Your theme camp should create an ambience, a visual presence, in some way provide a communal space or provide activity. It may be the anchor for a larger event taking place. The best camps succeed by simplicity. Concepts that are too big, like scholarly attempts to debunk complex social theory or Titanic-length storytelling arcs, will die from disinterest. Harley shrugs and says, "People walk in and they just don't get it."

More specific pitfalls await the unprepared. Humorist H. Allen Smith notes that the scariest of all the distressing words in the English language is "uh-oh". Pay full respect to the open desert, a harsh environment that punishes presumption. Design safety into your plans. No natural structures exist to block the force of 40 MPH gusting winds across the hardpan flats. The heat is oppressive, electrical storms are common, and dust storms can affect sensitive equipment. Rain can turn a fun(ky) miniature golf course into a mud wallow, and anything on wheels becomes a site-specific display if it's too heavy to push through thick paste.

All your needs must be thoroughly thought through to make your camp completely autonomous. This includes power, water and building equipment. Be prepared to haul everything out that you've brought in. Or if your camp is to be burned, be prepared to clean up any debris left over, including screws and nails. And (seriously) all cigarette butts. The managing principle of Black Rock City is LEAVE NO TRACE.

If you wish to advertise your camp or event, you may publicize your plans on the Burning Man website in our bulletin of registered theme camps. You may also discuss plan ideas and recruit help on the ePlaya Bulletin Board and also submit your planned event to the Playa Calendar for inclusion in the WhatWhereWhen, the on-playa event program.

When advertising on-playa, please remember that Burning Man attendees are Homo-sapiens and not marsupials; a naked person has no pockets to stash flyers. Flyers are an unintentional cause of trash problems, but stickers or body stamps are a more practical option.

To secure your placement in Black Rock City you must purchase your tickets. There are some factors however that will affect your placement: Will people be passing through 24 hours a day or just at limited times of the day? Is the camp intended for daytime or nighttime activity? Are you planning to burn your camp? Do you prefer or require relatively peaceful surroundings?

Our Theme Camp & Village Resource Guide offers generous hints for preparing and executing Camp, Village, Installation or Performance, with the advice of veterans with practical experience. In the end, though, your success truly relies on plain resolve to make your theme camp work. Securing your Structure should be read for those considering any significant building.

Each year, for a few months before Burning Man, the Placement Questionnaire will be available on this site for a limited period of time. If you'd like to receive a reserved spot for your theme camp you'll need to fill out the questionnaire so you can be properly placed. If you do not wish for your Theme Camp to be pre-placed at the event, you do not need to fill out the questionnaire.

"The understanding that Theme Camps truly are the fabric of Burning Man is now common knowledge," says Harley. "It is a responsibility and takes commitment. Remember that what YOU do helps to create what this year IS!"