How to Start a Theme Camp

Whether you're a registered theme camp or not this is the place to discuss and share camp plans, find a camp to join, or recruit new campmates.

How to Start a Theme Camp

Postby theCryptofishist » Sun Sep 19, 2010 8:15 pm

The out and out easiest way to start a theme camp is, of course, to get to the playa with your group, park your cars and rvs, put up your tents and shade structures, put an iconic item by the street and name yourself after it.

This is actually a very good thing to do.
I'm not planning to discuss that in this thread.

The Hard Way to Start a Theme Camp
    Get together your group.
    Decide on an idea.
    Create or buy an infrastructure.
    Go through the placement process
and then
    Get to the playa with your group
    Park your cars and rvs
    Put up your shade structures, tents, and the rest of your infrastructure
    Put your name or iconic object at the edge of your camp near the street

Your group could be a group of friends who live near each other or not so near each other. It could be a group of relative strangers who meet on the internet. It could be local people who meet at regional events. It's really not important how you form; what is important is that you can work together and respect each other.
In my limited experience, the theme camps I know have a few core people that I call "heavy lifters." These are the people who do the building or the research or the artwork or (maybe) the money or whatever it is that makes the core of the camp. In a general way, I think they should be deferred to in most cases. Unless they are really on some sort of power trip. I also think, though, that the second tier people who contribute less, but still put a lot of work in the camp are also important to it's functioning and feel. The people who may not have built the dome, but are there to put it together and take it apart, for instance. Ways should be found to incorporate their projects into the camp, even if they are not the camp's "theme."
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Postby Trishntek » Sun Sep 19, 2010 11:48 pm

I would certainly defer to your advanced experience over mine. And I do not disagree with you in principle. To me, the vision comes first whether it is an individual or a group.

The "heavy lifters" are totally committed to the project and may wisely begin the idea with minimal size, time investment and scheduled events to meter out the labor in a realistic manner. As the vision is shared and refined and more people get involved with their own ideas and projects, the camp grows and becomes relative in size to the participants.

That is how it was with our experience. And other projects I've worked on for charitable causes of various genre. Making decisions by committee is a hard row to hoe. In my opinion, start out with the vision and do everything possible to share that vision in the BM community and your own like-minded friends. Give yourself plenty of time (like, start planning NOW!) and read everything possible about theme camps in general along with brain-storming logistics among the "heavy lifters"

Everyone else will kick in the labor when needed. Just make sure they know what you expect from them AND what advantage your camp will provide them. The incentive could be something as simple as shade for their tent, a cup of morning coffee, a camp shower, or maybe one meal a day.
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Postby sierra_kink » Mon Sep 20, 2010 3:29 pm

I think that your core group must work well together off playa if you are to make it on playa. Also I think that these "heavy lifters" should be 100% behind the core idea. Things morph and get added onto, but the basic substance of your camp's contribution to the city should be the driving force. Everybody's going to have opinions but common ground is a great place to start and to return to as needed.

We have found that it helps to have someone with the "final word". It's not to break up arguments or have an iron fist or anything. When you have a group of super cool people it's like nobody wants to take the last cookie. Nobody wants to decide that one idea is better than another. 35 great ideas can't happen under one EZ-up. A decision must be made. Conversely democratic votes get really old when a simple decision is required... especially when people are in different locations, they don't all check email often, etc.

One last point: Be prepared for a lot of work. You will work harder than some others. Know that closer to the burn you may feel a little burnout. Please try to remember that you chose to do this. Others are doing what they have chosen to do. Everybody is volunteering their help. Don't bust balls. Everybody is there to have fun... including you.
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Postby K-mom » Mon Sep 20, 2010 3:34 pm

Since it likely ties in with this subject, what's the process for getting a listing in the what/where/when guide?
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Postby Ugly Dougly » Mon Sep 20, 2010 3:56 pm

Acceptance and placement as an official theme camp is made easier when you have an interactive element, especially when it is theme oriented.
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Postby ygmir » Mon Sep 20, 2010 6:30 pm

Ugly Dougly wrote:Acceptance and placement as an official theme camp is made easier when you have an interactive element, especially when it is theme oriented.


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Postby theCryptofishist » Mon Sep 20, 2010 10:19 pm

K-mom wrote:Since it likely ties in with this subject, what's the process for getting a listing in the what/where/when guide?

In summer they put the on-line calendar on-line. People enter their events and they select from those events for the what-where-when. Note: they messed with that this year, taking only the first x-number of events submitted. I don't know how the leaner, meaner www worked out (I've heard nothing about it, maybe it was just another unseen, unneeded improvement), but they may continue to tinker with it again in '11.
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Postby Trishntek » Mon Sep 20, 2010 11:20 pm

K-mom, It is my understanding that we, as virgins AND sponsoring a theme camp are somewhat unique,,,, or masochistic,,,,, not sure which. But what surprised many of our camp guests was that we actually got placed and listed in the WWW.

It truly is elementary,,,,, just read EVERYTHING about theme camps and start planning now! Be flexible,,,, start small with a foundational theme which can be handled by just a few people. Something you can build upon,,,, or keep as-is. All we did was promote our plans, sought advice here on eplaya, met the deadlines and all requirements for placement which will be in April, and allowed plans to adapt as people come and go. Never assume anything, hope for the best and plan for the worst.

Fundamentally, the one question anyone taking this journey needs to ask themselves is, "Why do I want to have my own theme camp?" It is that motivation which will carry you through the tough times. I must tell you, we were our most discouraged the evening of opening Monday.

We had arrived Sunday afternoon and had beautiful weather to put up the shade structure. Things went as planned and being my design, was pleased by the end of the day. The biggest blow of the week hit Monday morning and did not cease until the rain hit late that afternoon. We found out very quickly the value of our WalMart tarps,,,,, worthless. There was only four of us and our camp mates who were supposed to arrive,,,,, didn't! We were in emergency mode most of the day just repairing and fortifying the tarps with rope, tape and anything else we could think might work.

Just before the rain came, one of our camp mates arrived with an unanticipated friend. The two of them helped us get ahead of the damage and make progress on setting up the rest of the camp. By the end of that day, we were absolutely out of gas. Trish and I were seriously discussing forgetting the whole idea and just enjoy BRC without our own theme camp.

Moments after that conversation, another camp mate arrives,,,, one of our heavy lifters,,,, I almost cried when I saw him! The gate was closed during the rainstorm and that is why he was late. Then I get the news that what we experienced will probably be the worst of the weather for the week. There were many other things I had planned to set up,,,, but the important things were in place,,,, we had spent two days to get it to the point of functionality.

At that moment,,,,, in my own mind,,,,,, I dug deep into my soul and asked myself, "Why are we doing this?" The answer was clear and it was time to quit working and start playing. All the other stuff was just fluff and in the end was not missed one bit. In the end, we learned a great deal and plan to do it again next year. Forgetting what did not work, focusing on what did work and make it better,,,, but most of all,,,,, have fun putting smiles on burners' faces.
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Postby theCryptofishist » Tue Sep 21, 2010 10:49 am

Deciding on an idea is often the first step, now that I look at my opening post again. In fact, there's a whole bunch of "let's put on a show in the barn!" to burningman. But any good idea needs to be fleshed out and then purified to make it work.
Okay, I'm talking through my hat here. Yes, I co-founded a camp, but I was not one of the heavy lifters. I contribute, but not as much as I might like. I'm missing skills, but I'm also missing that energy and enthusiasm that carries people, or at very least yourself, on.
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Re: How to Start a Theme Camp

Postby clerkkent » Fri Sep 24, 2010 11:49 am

theCryptofishist wrote:
The Hard Way to Start a Theme Camp
    Get together your group.
    Decide on an idea.
    Create or buy an infrastructure.
    Go through the placement process



I would actually make one order change on this:
    Decide on an idea.
    Get together your group.
    Create or buy an infrastructure.
    Go through the placement process


I found it easier to wrangle up a posse when I had an idea and a rudimentary framework of a camp. People who were interested in my proposed 'theme' would gravitate towards it, and then had some idea of what would be involved.
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Camp masters

Postby clerkkent » Fri Sep 24, 2010 12:00 pm

In addition to the "heavy lifters", there is the position of 'camp master' that is vital. He/She/They probably has the most experience of the campmates, has contributed much energy, time and/or resources, and is most likely Heavy Lifter Alpha.

In the case of registered theme camps, their name is 'on the lease' so to speak. If a huge mess is left behind, their camp and their name will be tarnished. If LEOs cite the camp/campers for possession or distributing alcohol to minors, their name and camp will tarnished, if not cited.

To a certain extent, a "benevolent dictator" is needed to ensure the vitality of the camp. Sometimes, the campmaster(s) may have to play the role of the @$$hole when removing unruly campmates. Sometimes they may have to ruffle feathers when declining requests from campmates to bring XXXX or do ZZZZZZ. If you are dues camp, they have to be the mob enforcer to get people to pony up the cash (cash needed for food water, or fuel).
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Postby Ugly Dougly » Fri Sep 24, 2010 12:07 pm

If you have two hard core leaders, then make one the "Good Cop" and the other the "Bad Cop". Makes things easier to manage.

Usually someone who is suitable for "Good Cop" can be expected to cheerlead, smooth things over, patch up misunderstandings etc. The Bad Cop's job is to get people do things done that nobody wants to do, and eject camp members or fellow burners that are harshing the camp's buzz.
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Re: How to Start a Theme Camp

Postby theCryptofishist » Fri Sep 24, 2010 3:18 pm

clerkkent wrote:
theCryptofishist wrote:
The Hard Way to Start a Theme Camp
    Get together your group.
    Decide on an idea.
    Create or buy an infrastructure.
    Go through the placement process



I would actually make one order change on this:
    Decide on an idea.
    Get together your group.
    Create or buy an infrastructure.
    Go through the placement process

I found it easier to wrangle up a posse when I had an idea and a rudimentary framework of a camp. People who were interested in my proposed 'theme' would gravitate towards it, and then had some idea of what would be involved.

Yeah, if you notice I did figure that out when I started with the group dynamics. Which is why I'm very glad we are doing this together--even if it's not a wiki. I helped to birth one theme camp, and despite my leadership title, I wasn't one of the mainsprings. So there are all sorts of people on this board who know more than I do, as well as the natural difference of experience. Getting a good cross-section is key to getting the information out.

So, [jokey pretentious voice]thank you for participating, clerkkent[/jokey pretentious voice]
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Postby Miles » Wed Sep 29, 2010 11:44 am

step 1: start a theme camp
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Postby klark44 » Fri Oct 08, 2010 6:55 pm

had my first camp one person showed up I made 15--# of clay had a great time with very little infrastructure. more would be nice but it worked. just do it, see you next year fire and Mud photos up on face[url]http://www.facebook.com/album.php?id=100000730823935&aid=32938[/url]
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Postby Trishntek » Sat Oct 09, 2010 12:10 am

klark44 wrote:had my first camp one person showed up I made 15--# of clay had a great time with very little infrastructure. more would be nice but it worked. just do it, see you next year fire and Mud photos up on face http://www.facebook.com/album.php?id=100000730823935&aid=32938


Fixed that link for ya
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Postby maryanimal » Mon Oct 11, 2010 11:17 pm

I like the ideas of starting you're own camp! I'm trying to get all four of my sons to come to BM next year. And telling them to bring their friends. We're going over some camp names! I have a son in the Navy but he told me no military names!! Ah well, such is life! Thanks for all the information!
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Postby theCryptofishist » Tue Oct 12, 2010 10:03 am

Keep reading, please. This isn't anywhere near as good as my "How to Join a Theme Camp" thread, and that's my fault. I just don't understand this process as well. So, keep asking questions, too. I'm hoping we can get the more experienced and able to add useful information.
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Postby maryanimal » Tue Oct 12, 2010 5:14 pm

Well you sound well versed in Burning Manese. I always look for your posts on subjects. They are helpful and knowledgeable. Will you be at BM next year?
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Postby theCryptofishist » Tue Oct 12, 2010 5:19 pm

Yes.

And don't tell me that that's what I said this year!
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Postby Snow » Tue Oct 12, 2010 5:22 pm

Can I start my own theme camp with fees that pays for my burn, people bring all the art, I don't have to work, I get groupies, and get to take all the credit. All I need is a hat, right?
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Postby theCryptofishist » Tue Oct 12, 2010 5:24 pm

Just think of the work it takes to keep that line of bullshit polished...
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Postby theCryptofishist » Sat Jan 01, 2011 9:07 pm

I've seen a couple of threads recently...

Well, it's 2011, and people are trickling onto the board and asking questions about joining and starting theme camps. Lots of spirit, but maybe not a grounding in the issues. I"m going to say again, just come and be your own camp; some people will ignore me, so I'm hoping that we can at least make your creating your own theme camp something other than miserable.

Don't expect other people to make your theme camp "big." Hm. If you meet someone you work well with, then build--slowly, over years--but don't have a grand vision and wait for other people to bring in the details you want. They'll bring in the details they want. Learn to love the process.
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Postby lucky420 » Sat Jan 01, 2011 9:21 pm

+100 Yay for fishy. A very smart and insightful fish/woman.
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Postby jella » Sat Jan 01, 2011 9:23 pm

~In awe of the Forspoken widom~
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Postby theCryptofishist » Sat Jan 01, 2011 10:02 pm

Well, it's sweet of you guys, but this is a thread that has me flummoxed. I can tell people how to join a camp, that's relatively straight forward. But I'm stumbling (metaphorically) around in the dark here. I don't really have the leadership potential to see what needs to be done, much less to explain it.

So, anyone with insight, please post it.
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Postby jkisha » Sat Jan 01, 2011 11:10 pm

How to start a theme camp in three easy steps.

1. A group of like minded people. ( or at least a group of people that can work and play well with each other)

2. A concept.

3. Lots of planning meetings.

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Postby theCryptofishist » Sun Jan 02, 2011 11:30 am

If you can avoid drama at the planning meetings, it might even work.
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Postby HandJamMasterC » Wed Jan 05, 2011 10:18 am

After 2 years of just going to Burning Man, we decided to start a theme camp last year ( Camp D.O.A. ). It was more of an evolution from just being a spectator. I'd say that one should probably be an experienced Burner first. That way, hopefully you will be inspired to create something uniquely you.

It was easy - when I got back from the 2009 Burn, i just started building stuff to take to Burning Man. I built stuff and bought stuff day and night all last year - ha ! At some point after we bought tickets a bunch of us realized we were going to have a wine and champagne bar theme camp. You really just need to decide that you want to be a part of Burning man and not just an observer, have a core group of dedicated Burner friends to help, and a bunch of money you're willing to spend!!

Can't wait to come back this year as a theme camp too - it changed my Burning man experience forever !! 8)
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Postby Trishntek » Sun Jan 23, 2011 12:32 am

That reminds me of someone I exchanged messages with recently. She wants to go to BM this year and I simply asked if she got her ticket. She responded, "yer funny! that isn't until September is it?"

It made me realize that we who have camps are actually "working" on BurningMan stuff almost every day. If it isn't communicating with fellow campers, it's taking inventory or actually buying, gathering or building something for the coming event. I've used almost an entire tablet of graph paper just deciding which camp layout, shade structure dimensions and determining needed resources.

it's always on my mind,,,,,,,
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