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Element 11: Set to burn freely at Utah’s regional Burning Man
Element 11 » Kindred spirits flock to Utah’s Burning Man fest.

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Everyone is on Playa Time, lingo for laid back and free of outside restrictions. There are a few taboos, but generally what they do, how they interact, what they scream from a bullhorn at 2:30 a.m., all are guided by the emotion and energy around the festival at any given moment.

Everyone who paid the $90-$150 ticket price — a fee paid by even the board of directors and volunteers — is trying to expand a culture counter to what happens in the Default World outside.

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For someone who hasn’t properly experienced Element 11, the sight of a man getting his butt cheeks paddled upon entry might seem a bit brash.

But these people, depending on what label or lens is applied, lead by example to create a civic-minded community focused on sharing, human interaction and art. Oh, and fire. That’s a big part holding the party together.

But that’s not the point of Element 11.

Ten thousand hours of labor — all volunteer — created Element 11, says organizer and local artist Aspen Moon. Moon is director of operations for the newly recognized nonprofit event. The group aims to give 75 percent of its net profits to art projects. This year, that meant about $16,000 in grants.

"I’m really interested in something that stirs a concept, stirs emotion, stirs a feeling, you know?" Moon says. He was talking about his paintings, which are rooted in spiritual geometry, but it seems to fit his thoughts on fostering the makeshift community.

Regional personalities » While everyone has an opinion on whether Element 11 and other regional burns should emulate Burning Man or take on their own personality, Moon and the directors intensely planned the event to let the camps show up and take on its own living personality.

Still, the folks from Southern California in Bat Country camp said Utah’s burn is "like taking a piece of Burning Man and putting it in Utah," and this festival is respected for its adherence to the 10 principles of Burning Man.

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Large and complex electric lighting sits atop "mutant vehicles," cars turned into creatures that crawl the desert sand and rocks day and night, most playing music.

A large pair of dentures on wheels shines fluorescent while it chatters around a crowd of people dancing to its music. Three jellyfish from the Jellyfish Camp slither to the base of a small hill on the northeast corner of camp Saturday morning, blasting its house music for all to hear at 3 a.m.

The whole spectacle is a lot of commitment for 66 hours of Playa Time fun. It can all be quite emotional for those who volunteer year after year. Markham Sound watches through a pair of goggles the ending of the Valhalla ship.

The ship was dedicated to 33-year-old Daniel Fonseca, who died three months before the festival after years of attendance and several years with cancer.

Fonseca was one more string that makes the ship hard to let go.

As the flames danced and embers blew north, Sound looks on from the front of the gathered circle of people. "It’s got the wind at its back now," he says. "It’s sailing."


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