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Burning Flipside Changed My Mind About Open Camping



What is Burning Flipside?

Burning Flipside is the largest and oldest regional burn in Texas, growing from just 30 people in 1998 to around 3,000 Flipizens. The temporary community of Pyropolis is built, celebrated and taken down within a just few days on the 100 acre property of Apache Pastures in Milam TX.


Like Burning Man, this regional burn follows a set of principles to help attendees disconnect from the default world and draw out the best in us. The principles of Flipside are self expression, accountability, and cooperation, which help to make the burn a place of acceptance and inclusivity.


The theme for 2024 was “Cosmic Critter Carnival”. While it was not required, attendees were encouraged to engage with this fun theme through their art, self expressions, clothing, and camp decor. The effigy, a large art piece to be burned at the end of the event, was a possum in a trash can which had been crashed into by space debris. Because of this disturbance, the angry possum spit fire whenever a group of people created a loud enough noise. This was an exciting and impressive interactive art piece. You could be walking past at any time of the day, hear a large group shouting at the top of their lungs, and see it spout flames seconds later.



Camping in the Badlands

Apache Pastures was gorgeous, with beautiful pecan trees and low rolling slopes. However it was also a bit challenging to camp in for those new to Texas (like myself). The air was hot and humid, the mosquitoes were omnipresent, scorpions and snakes could be found hiding in your shoes or gear, and poison ivy was abundant. We ended up camping near a large patch of poison ivy, and were careful to lay down tarps, mark it off, and learn how to identify it.


The layout was organized from relatively quiet to loud to very loud, and camps were placed accordingly. Many theme camps were those that I had recognized from Freezerburn and Alma Burn, with their members being highly active in the Texas Burning Man community by attending different burns, helping to build art pieces, and organizing volunteer events.


I stayed in open camping with some friends, called the Badlands at Flipside. I hadn't seen these friends in a while, and we were excited to camp together. While I normally join an organized theme camp, we decided to camp in the badlands. It turned out to be an amazing decision, as we had the best time customizing our camp and hanging out with our neighbors. Together with these new friends we had many deep conversations, shared meals, danced our hearts out, and exchanged real world contact information at the end.






Burning Flipside Culture

The beauty of a burn is being able to share art that is a true expression of yourself, that may not be accepted elsewhere, and is not meant to make money - it is shared simply for the sake of art. This was infused into the environment, including large art pieces, interactive pieces, art cars, fire dancing, amazing music, and more.


Flipside shows value in not only acceptance of everyone but active accommodation and advocacy. Jammie Camp gave workshops helping people learn how to be more inclusive, many Flipizens had physical or invisible disabilities, and active systems were put in place to make the burn accessible to everyone.


One was the pick up points (PUPs) which were located in easily accessible spots with a chair and sign, and were lit at night. Dedicated carts drove around to pick up participants, as well as art cars with the ability and space. While the chairs were dedicated for mobility-challenged participants, they were also a useful spot to get picked up if you found yourself overheating or otherwise needing to wait for a ride. At one point I found myself in serious pain from the sandals I was wearing, and it was great to wait at a PUP (in the grass instead of taking up the chair) for a ride.




There were also signs everywhere which helped people stay clean, such as putting the lids down at the port o-potties. While it sounds like a small thing, in the Texas heat it made a big difference to be able to walk past the portos without gagging. Smell is a significant trigger for me, so I appreciated the volunteers who made an effort to remind everyone of cleanliness habits.


It felt like burner culture was deeply infused in Flipside. I recognized friends from previous regionals, resulting in joyful reunions. Gifts were thoughtful, elaborate, and given with joy. We practiced self reliance, but also lifted one another up. At one point I realized I was seriously dehydrated, and another burner noticed. He walked me to a camp that offered water refills and an air conditioned space, where we sat and talked until I felt better. I am always struck by the moments of kindness and love expressed by strangers at burns.



Volunteering

Everything at Flipside is created by participants through personal contributions of art, entertainment, hospitality, and volunteerism. Unlike a music festival, there is no paid staff or paid entertainment. There are no concession stands, vendors, or cash transactions (except, thankfully, for ice sales).


Volunteering at a regional burn helps the event run more smoothly, gives you a look into essential processes, and gives you a fun activity to do. For those who are going solo or simply like to keep busy, it is a great way to meet and bond with other burners, and potentially find an a new corner of burner culture to feel passionate about.


I volunteered for Guardians, Parking, and Snail Tinder Mail, which is the theme camp I often stay with. Guardians has always been my favorite volunteer shift, as it involves waking up early (or staying up late), and spending several hours guarding an exit to the property with one other person. I have always found it to be a beautiful way to watch the sunrise and make a new friend on one of my burn days.






Immediacy

I didn’t take many photos or videos during this burn because I was simply living in the moment. Occasionally I considered taking a photo but felt so immersed in what I was doing that I didn't want to break the spell, or there was no opportunity to ask for consent from the people involved. So I didn't bother.


This sense of immediacy extended to not just putting away my phone, but eating when I was hungry, sleeping when I was tired, talking to anyone I found interesting, and enjoying the activities I was doing. I felt completely engrossed in the burn, and loved it.


This was also the first time that I felt that I felt safe being completely unclothed, and truly understood the freedom that many burners feel to bear their bodies and soul to each other. Everyone needs a break from their struggles sometimes, and Flipizens know how to truly detach from the real world.



Conclusion

Overall, Flipside was amazing! I felt completely immersed in the alternative world of the Cosmic Critter Carnival, and wanted to engage with the burn with full immediacy. The property was beautiful, the burner culture was rich, and the interactive gifts - especially the DJs - were the best I had experienced at any burn. It felt especially inclusive, with extra structures in place for accessibility and harm reduction that I haven't seen elsewhere.


While I still love burning with a theme camp, there was something special about open camping. We were able to fully customize our camp site and, with fewer responsibilities, could connect with our neighbors on a deep level of friendship. I would dare to say that Flipside has been my favorite regional burn so far, and I will definitely be returning.





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Hi, I'm Koi!

I'm an environmental project manager who decided to make a change from office life to to outdoor projects and small business ownership.

My goal is to help promote forward movement in outdoor spaces and live events towards full accessibility and diversity by giving everyone the inspiration and tools to create their own adventure.

I love self expression, hiking, music festivals, and Burning Man, and want to show that celebrating diversity in the outdoors makes it better for everyone.

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