Kameron Hammond is part of the Element 11 board of directors, serving as secretary and communications director for the nonprofit regional Burning Man group. Hammond is prepping for the 2013 Element 11 burn, which will take place July 11-14. The open event (18 and over; visit Element11.org for tickets and more info) is an arts festival of sorts, with theme camps, painting classes, lectures, dance parties, things to climb on and slide down, and, of course, several planned burns. Everyone is also invited to the kid-friendly Burner Day in the Park, which will be held at Murray Park on June 9, from 4 to 10 p.m., and will feature a fire show, a potluck barbecue, art projects and more. City Weekly talked to Hammond, as well as at-large board member Kari Larson, about Element 11 and burning stuff.
What goes on at Element 11?
Kameron: We have it out at Seabase, which is in Grantsville. They close it for the weekend for us, which is super cool. We camp, obviously, the whole time, and we have a lot of different workshops—yoga, didgeridoo—live music and DJs. Some camps will make food and invite people over for food. There’s one camp that has everything you need to cook, but you just bring your own food and use their kitchen.
There’s a lot of art that people come out and do, and there’s just a few that we burn—we try not to burn very many things, for environmental reasons. We did build a big Viking ship called the Valhalla last year. We were going to burn it last year but decided to keep it there, and it’s been an awesome space. This year, we’re going to build something else that we’re going to keep for a year. Roy Dean is building it, and it’s the infinity sign.
Is it open to people who haven’t been to Burning Man?
Kameron: We run our festivals on the 10 Burning Man principles. One of them is inclusiveness. Everyone is really friendly, and everyone seems to be on vacation. You can really let go and have fun and let your guard down. We’re radically expressive and extremely loving.
Kari: Anybody can join our community, and they’re welcomed with open arms. It’s a family. Sometimes your brother drives you crazy, and there’s people like that in our community—but you still love them, because they’re part of your community. I haven’t been in other groups like that.
How did you get involved?
Kameron: I got invited to Element 11 seven years ago. I just fell in love with the community. I went to Burning Man that year, like two months later, and I just loved it. I’m on the board, so it’s time-consuming—like a part-time job, almost. It’s helped me to be more creative, and be more part of a community.
Kari: I joined the community 3 1/2 years ago. I’d moved from Seattle. I’d heard about Burning Man for about eight years—I’d seen all these pictures. I was living in Utah, and I didn’t know anybody, which is isolating. All of a sudden, I remembered the Burners. So I went to the regional Burning Man website, and went to Decompression, and I was like, “These are my people!” They had tattoos and they had colored hair. I felt at home.
Do people ever attend warily but come away with a new perspective?
Kari: That happens with, like, every virgin. There are some people who it doesn’t click with, and that’s OK. Some people aren’t ready for this type of thing. Some of it is overwhelming for some people, or they feel, “I’m not creative enough.” But the majority of the time, when people get exposed to it, they’re hooked.
Kameron: When people first come to the community, they’re a little curious and cautious, but once they get to know people and realize how open everyone is, and how open-minded people are, and how loving the community is, it’s really easy just to fall in love with the community, and to want to come back, and volunteer. Everything we do is volunteer-based. Nobody gets paid for anything. You can be as involved as you want, or not involved. And not everyone in our community goes to Burning Man.
Kari: Which is why it’s awesome that they have the opportunity to experience a Burning Man-like event here in Utah. It’s sharing that experience with people locally.
So, why do you burn stuff?
Kari: You can build amazing things and not be attached. And keep creating. If you burn something, it’s no longer there, so let’s make something better and more amazing next year. We have the main effigy that burns, and it’s a huge celebration of life, and it’s this huge party with dancing and drums and lasers. But the temple burn is a very somber, reflective time. People will go to the temple and write things on the walls, whatever they want to release. People will put ashes of family members or animals. I’ve seen wedding dresses nailed to the walls—whatever people are giving up to the universe.
Do you ever have a moment of regret as you’re lighting something on fire?
Kameron: Oh my gosh, yes, if you’re part of building it. I’ll cry when we burn the ship, for sure. We had one of our campmates pass away this year, so we’re dedicating the burn to him. It’ll be really emotional.
Was last year a bummer because burning was restricted?
Kari: We were all worried that we wouldn’t be able to burn anything. Then one of our gals did a rain dance, and the most hellacious storm came in and flooded the entire festival. Everything was underwater, and it was the hugest mess ever.
Kameron: We could barely even burn because it was so wet.