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The annual alternative culture phenomenon known as Burning Man has become highly popular since its inception in 1986; thousands of "burners" flock to Nevada's Black Rock Desert every year to participate in the festival. It's not surprising, then, that Sacramento has created its own smaller version of Burning Man. "Burn the River," set to take place Saturday, is in its second year and growing fast.
Burn the River was created last year when a group of local artists returned from Burning Man and created a nonprofit organization called Sacramento Valley Spark as an effort to bring the philosophy of Burning Man to the Sacramento area. Their first main goal was to throw a large community arts festival in the style of Burning Man, but on a smaller scale--what's known as a "decompression" in burner dialect. .
"Decompression is an attempt in the normal world--what's laughingly called the 'default' world--to create an environment that's indicative of Burning Man in your own community," said event producer Joyce Maund.
Last year's Burn the River took place on Nov. 5th, but the rainy weather forced a last-minute location change. Still, about 325 people showed up.
"Burners are a a very hearty bunch," Maund said. This year's forecast is sunny, and about 700-1,000 people are expected to participate.
Like its larger counterpart, one of the main philosophies behind Burn the River is that there are no spectators, just participants.
"We try to bring in as much interactive art as possible, so you're not just looking at something, you're part of it," Maund said. Burn the River is focused on community, self expression, and decommodification. There is no vending or selling at the event, only "gifting." In accordance with this philosophy, everyone involved in planning Burn the River is a volunteer (except for two paid security guards).
The organization of such a large event has been somewhat difficult for Sacramento Valley Spark. Due to air quality concerns, Burn the River will not be allowed to burn its "effigy," a huge piece of art that is set on fire to symbolize renewal. This is one of the most distinctive and popular aspects of Burning Man, but Maund's attitude remained unwaveringly positive. "We will figure something out," she said, "because we have to. That's the beauty of burners."
Participants will have plenty of other activities to enjoy at Burn the River, including DJs, live music, live performances, multiple bars, interactive art, costumes, hooping, dancing, gifting, and more. The festival is organized into "theme camps", such as body painting, Jedi training camp, and beer and wine. Some of Burning Man's distinctive "mutant vehicles" will be present at Burn the River, and there will be multiple art installations, including what Maund called a "relatively standard" art gallery featuring Sacramento artists.
Burn the River will take place on Oct. 20th from 4pm-2am at Rio Ramaza Marina & Event Park, 10000 Garden Hwy. The event is for people 21 and over. Tickets are $25 in advance and $30 at the door. Purchase tickets here. Advance tickets sales will end at 4pm on October 18th.