Playa del Fuego is an immediatist
gathering that follows the spirit of the Burning Man
festival in many respects: there are No Spectators
, participants endure (and revel in) Radical Personal Responsibility
, and they Leave No Trace
. Playa del Fuego is not officially linked to Burning Man in any way.
As of this writing, Playa del Fuego takes place twice yearly, once in the spring months and once in the fall in Odessa, DE. It is organized through the efforts of volunteers who coordinate different logistical factors of the event. Otherwise, participants are encouraged to view the space as a canvas upon which they build their own visionary city. The site is 14+ acres of grassy field and marshland.
The first Playa del Fuego (although it had not yet been given that name; at the time it was simply called beach burn) took place August 1st, 1998, on Assateague Island's National Seashore. Approximately 20 people attended. Participants had created a four-foot tall pressboard-construction effigy pointing west toward Gerlach, NV. No camp sites were reserved by the group, and unfortunately the entire island was booked; sleeping on the beach at Assateague is prohibited so participants all stayed up all night long and then made the long drive home.
It was on this event that the following eight burns, held over the next three years, was modeled. Someone would reserve either a set of individual camp sites and encourage others to do the same,or as many group camp sites (there are five at Assateague, each with a 25-person capacity) as were available would be reserved by us. People would bring artwork, performance artists brought their tricks and toys, potluck meals were shared and many people had their first experience swimming nude in the ocean. Some infrastructure began to develop, the Playa del Fuego Rangers were born. Gradually we extended the event duration from one to two nights, and during this time participation grew to nearly 200 people.
April 27, 2001 was the last Playa del Fuego event at Assateague Island National Seashore. Some idiot overdosed on a cocktail of weird drugs and had to be taken away in an ambulance. While previously we had enjoyed a very cordial and cooperative relationship with the National Park Service Rangers, one ranger on duty that weekend (now known as Ranger Buttplug) had heard about Burning Man before and was far too eager to ensure that things didn't get out of hand by his standards. As much as we loved Assateague Island, it was clear that we had overstayed our welcome there and had outgrown the place. We left Assateague for the last time as a group April 29, 2001, never to return. We began the search for a new location.
It was around this time we found the Vietnam Veterans Motorcycle Club of Delaware through Andy Wing's sister, who had attended hasher events there before. The site was inexpensive, provided the use of 8 portable toilets, a stage with 120v AC, a pavillion, dumpster service, and 7 acres of beautiful Delaware scenery. It was also central to the many different locations East Coast Burners hail from: Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, DC, Northern Virginia, Richmond, New York, and Boston. The vets didn't bat an eye when we mentioned our affinity for big fires and nudity, so it appeared we had found our new home.
The most recent Playa del Fuego event featured a 15' burn stack with a burning pony on top, a 32' geodesic dome for DJs to perform in, a fire circle ceremony with over 30 performers, a coed naked slip-n-slide adapted from a Walt Disney banner, and 380 attendees from all walks of life.