M-PYRE Strikes Back, on July 17, 2010, is unusual among Burning Man regional events: it had no gate, no required entry fee and was completely open to the public. With more than 500 participants, this was the biggest M-PYRE to date. Its size, surfside location and rate of growth echo the early Baker Beach Burning Man events.
The event was held in Monterey, California about 90 miles south of San Francisco. The tiny city, with a population of 30,000, has hosted five regionals since 2007.
DJs spun from 10 a.m. until 10 p.m. Participants picnicked, created and showed off art, swam, hooped, set up fire-dancing areas after dark, and explained the Burning Man philosophy to curious locals and the occasional reporter. After the city’s 10 p.m. curfew on beach events, many participants went to the local East Village Coffee Lounge for an afterparty that continued until 2 a.m.
“There’s no boundaries on our event. There’s no gate. It’s completely open to the public,” said Jennie Kay, Monterey’s regional contact. “It’s the only [official] Burning Man event I know of…that’s suggested donation only,” she added. “That’s the true gift of what this community can provide.”
M-PYRE’s beach burns began with an unofficial beach party that succeeded beyond anyone’s expectations. “We expected about 30 people and 150 showed up,” said Kay. Like the famous final Baker Beach burn in 1989, the police arrived to break up the event – but the way they handled it was very different from the methods of the San Francisco police 21 years ago. According to Kay, when the cops arrived they said “This is the biggest party we’ve ever busted on the beach, and it’s also the cleanest party we’ve ever busted on the beach. If we weren’t working, we’d be here right now.”
Because there was no permit or insurance, the police were required to shut the event down; however, because the crowd was so well-behaved, they didn’t write tickets or levy fines. “They were really nice about the whole thing,” Kay said.
Two days later, Kay called the police and said, “Thank you for your courtesy in not ticketing us. Now what do we do to make it legal?” Since then, every event has run smoothly. Because participants leave the beach cleaner than when they arrived, the city has even gone out of its way to expedite the permitting process. “We’ve never had a police incident,” said Kay.
M-PYRE website: www.mpyreburn.com