Jeff Clark is a serious business man, or at least he's always considered himself one. But when some of his friends headed to Black Rock Desert, Nev., for the 2012 Burning Man, he decided to give the trip a shot.
"I didn't think I wanted to go. But when you're out there, it's such a spiritual experience," Clark said.
Tahoe Burners will gather this Saturday at Clark's Raw Bar to recapture the spirituality and community of the festival for the South Shore's first-ever official Burning Man Decompression party. It's a way to reunite and bond with the event participants, Clark said.
Fire dancers, artists, shadow dancing and other performers will gather in Stateline, Nev., for a fiery outdoor performance while an After Burner party burns away in the bar with lasers and black lights.
So what exactly is Burning Man? Describing the pilgrimage to someone who's never been is like trying to describe a particular color to a blind man, at least according to the event's official website.
Burning Man started in the late 1980s on a small San Francisco beach. Now it draws tens of thousands of people to the Nevada desert - also know as the playa - to create Black Rock City, a metropolis dedicated to community, art and self-expression. When the week ends, the participants disperse, leaving no trace of their presence.
And of course, there's fire. Burners lit up 22 effigies created by worldwide Burning Man regional groups in 2011, all of which circled the 'Man' - a wooden figure that was 104 feet tall that year.
When Clark arrived at Black Rock City as a Burning Man rookie, event organizers had him get out of his car and make a playa angel - the equivalent of a snow angel except that instead of powder you're lying on your back in the dust of a dry lake bed - to "diffuse any negative energy," Clark said. When he returned to the South Shore after only a day at the festival to prepare Raw Bar for its grand opening on Sept. 15, he wanted to keep the flame going and agreed to host the Decompression event.
Andrea Creo, a Burning Man regional contact and the owner of Tahoe Fire Dancers, said that although there have been other post-Burning Man parties in the South Shore, Saturday's event will be the first one that follows the festival's Ten Principals.
Those principals include radical inclusion, self-reliance, civic responsibility and communal effort, so Creo said she and other event organizers have tried to include the South Shore community and have acquired all the necessary city permits for fire performances. Getting an official status allows the group to advertise to a larger audience and unite the different burners in the basin, Creo said.
"There are a ton of burners up here. In South Lake in particular, there's a lot of different groups and it's really scattered. We want to bring people together," she said.
Creo often had to evacuate her home in the California foothills beacuse of fire. It was something that scared her, but instead of fleeing from the flames, she embraced them. She teaches fire dancing and fire safety at the Lake Tahoe Community College and she's been to the playa seven times.
Even though he's a novice burner, Clark said he's noticed that there's a large Burning Man community around the lake.
"It's very strong. You have a lot of creative, talented artists and you also have a lot of successful business men that go just to let go. Tahoe is such a beautiful, panoramic, outdoor destination. People fall in love with it. It's a spiritual awakening for them and Burning Man is the same way. It's a similar type of environment, minus the water," Clark said.