AFTERBURN REPORT 2005
After a year full of changes and challenges in 2004, the Gate and Perimeter crews returned to have yet another landmark year in 2005. With the long-experienced core group and many new volunteers, the staff provided kind assistance to the thousands of Black Rock City citizens returning to their home away from home. With only a few hitches here and there, a steady flow continued into the city, with only a few traffic backups and none reaching farther than the parking lot. The crew stayed healthy, happy, and having fun doing what they do best, despite the harsh conditions and long hours in the dirt.
Without the seasoned returning crew, things would never have gone as smoothly as they did this year. Most shift leads have 4 to 6 years' experience working the Gate and Perimeter. So if anyone wonders why the experience at the Gate gets smoother and less stressful each year, almost like a professional operation, they can chalk it up to experienced staff. Once volunteers stumble upon the Gate and Perimeter, they keep coming back for more. This is what the team does best.
A second year of strong management and stronger shift leads welcomed many new volunteers into the crew. As word spread about how great this crew really is, more volunteers showed up than leaders could organize. Improvements for 2006 will include refining scheduling and onsite training to better utilize the time folks are willing to donate. With the new hands on deck, stress levels in 2005 were lower than before, but effective use of those willing helpers will further decrease the strain on the staff and give the workaholics on the crew well-deserved time to relax and maybe even see the event.
Early arrivals seemed to move through the Gate much more smoothly than in 2004, and fewer participants seemed to be trying to get in when only staff and authorized volunteers were permitted. Possibly people are finally getting the message that the event starts on Monday'. Showing up earlier taxes resources, and Gate folks hate having to turn away anyone. Two computers helped staff to check for early arrival access, but most of the time only one was usable, so things would bog down from time to time. For 2006, the Gate crew wants to build two new machines with dust guards and make sure everyone is trained and ready to put them to work.
The art car scene was much improved for 2005, with people prepared with proper paperwork to get their odd-wheels into the city. A number of participants didn't understand what was and was not allowed in the gate, and we therefore offloaded and impounded around 50 pocketbikes, scooters, motorcycles, ATVs, and even an unregistered snowblower! Limitations on mutant vehicles seem to create a tough situation for people to accept, so the 2006 Gate crew will likely be facing this issue again every year.
The Gate and Perimeter staff had excellent interactions with the other departments in 2005, especially with the Box Office crew. Granted the two departments have a close relationship, working hand-in-hand on many participants' ticketing issues. But the cooperative spirit was a beautiful thing to see. The Art and Theme Camp staff also seemed to have it together on Gate and access issues, making 2005 a great year for cooperation.
The Perimeter team also had a good year. While the Gate staff caught dozens of stowaways, the Perimeter team completed well over 200 intercepts. Several were trying to gain access through the fenceline, some were merely passers by, and some were law enforcement personnel. But as the Gate crew keeps tight control by catching stowaways, the Perimeter seems the biggest target for gaining illegal entry. But those standing guard proved that the 7.5 miles of trash fence is much more difficult to breech than it looks. With added activity over the last few years, the Perimeter crew proves to be an exciting and fun volunteer opportunity, maintaining the safety for those near the fence from idiotic fencecrashers.
The laminate office again proceeded with early production and manufactured only a limited amount of staff laminates on playa. They also, as usual, made laminates for local visitors on playa, The new guest registration deadline encouraged locals to get their laminates earlier than before. This change put a strain on the two people in the laminate office and triggered an effort to get more folks to help. For 2006, this function will definitely require more volunteer help.
The only really difficult challenge to the Gate crew this year was scalping. Full law enforcement support helped, and scalpers were carefully watched, but one individual actually found every loophole to continue scalping tickets without being arrested. For 2006, creative new efforts will be needed to keep these people from taking participants' hard-earned money and taking money away from the event.
Through calm days under a scorching sun, to high winds and low-visibility nights, the Gate and Perimeter staff worked hard to make sure that everyone who entered Black Rock City participated in the simplest way -- and the only required way -- by purchasing a ticket. Volunteers searched RVs, tore tickets, talked a good talk, and caught those testing the rules. They moved cars, trucks, vans, and RVs through the process, but more importantly they moved participants through the last steps of the real world and into the desert reality that tens of thousands call home for a week, and all had a damn fine time doing it.
Bucky and Pearl