Sea Base hosts ninth-annual Utah regional Burning Man festival
by Missy Thompson and Natalie Tripp
Jun 03, 2008 | 2502 views | 0 0 comments | 23 23 recommendations | email to a friend | print
While Tooele County was packed with motorcycles aficionados from across the globe last weekend at Miller Motorsports Park, a different sort of community gathered at Bonneville Sea Base in a celebration of diversity and creative expression.

Element 11 -- Utah's official regional Burning Man festival -- attracted a crowd of about 500 people from Friday through Sunday afternoon.

Burning Man first started in 1986 when a broken-hearted man named Larry Harvey built an eight foot wooden-man to burn to express his frustration. Harvey continued to rebuild and burn his wooden man on Baker Beach in San Francisco over the years and the opportunity for self expression attracted many people to the burn. The annual festival is now held over Labor Day weekend, and has relocated to the Black Rock desert in Nevada to accommodate larger crowds.

The group out at Bonneville Sea Base is the Utah Regional Burning Man group that was created to allow more people to have a Burning Man experience. Element 11's manifesto states that the group is dedicating Burning Man as an annual experiment in temporary community dedicated to radical self-expression and radical self-reliance.

This year's festival theme was Eclectic XI, and featured a fashion show and an elephant effigy burn.

Bonneville Sea Base owner George Sanders leased the property for Element 11 coordinators to use. This is the fifth year he has leased the property for the regional festival, which has been staged for nine years.

"They're so friendly, no one sells anything here," Sanders said. "They'll give you the shirt off their back. It's just a bunch of people getting together to have a good time."

Performances were put on non-stop during the 48-hour festival. Plays, musical groups, dances, movies and fire dancers performed for audiences who came from all over, not just Utah. The performances tied in with the theme, Eclectic XI.

But the main reason people come to Burning Man is to burn things they've created. Themed camps were scattered throughout the community where effigies were burned. The largest burn was in the center of the area where the world's largest disco ball, made by Salt Lake resident Derek Deyer, hung from a crane.

Another sculpture that was burned was from Ski-Bomb Bill, 43, from Florida. Ski-Bomb Bill is his chosen name and refused to disclose his real name. Most community members prefer similar circumstances. Bill made a wicker stand out of five wicker baskets he found in a shopping cart.

"I created this sculpture from things I wasn't expecting to find," Bill said. "I'm not sad to burn it. It's liberating."

Other effigies included an elephant made out of wood and tie-dyed sheets with a tent on top. The trunk of the elephant was equipped to emit flames when it was lit.

Within the community there was also a medical tent and rangers who policed the group to make sure nothing got out of hand.

"We don't have any problem with [the people]," Sanders said. "They come and have fun and then they pack up and leave without leaving any trace that they were here."

Sanders believes the festival keeps coming back to Bonneville Seabase because there are showering facilities and the chance to go diving.

That was one of the reasons Kevin Moore and his wife Michelle, of Salt Lake City, came back for their second year.

"Seabase is like a precious gem," Moore said. "It's really close by and they have water so we can take showers and go swimming."

Moore's camp was set up by the Church of Elemental Awareness, of which he is a member. They constructed a giant Cat-in-the-Hat hat as their project.

"We burned it to the ground," Moore said. "But it still turned out to be an awesome art instillation."

Moore said the festival just keeps getting better.

"We had a great time," Moore said. "It is the coolest party Utah puts on each year."

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