Iowa’s New Beginnings: The first Iowa Burning Man Regional

It’s always amazing to see the beginnings of a new Burner community. We get to see wonderful people working to achieve a common creative and cultural goal. This year marked the first Burning Man sanctioned Iowa Regional. Seventy-five Burners came together for a weekend of off-Playa magic, in Central Iowa.


I’m happy to say that I had the privilege of talking with a member of the new and ever-growing Iowa Burner Community, Iowa Sockmonkey. Sockmonkey, who has attended 9 regional Burns in the last two years, has never been to the big Burn out in the desert. In the last two years, she’s managed to acquire an extensive and active participation resume (which is always awesome in the Burner community), sporting Ranger status, TLA, Earth Guardian, Effigy Deco Co-Lead, and even working on this year’s Midwest CORE project. I interviewed her about the Iowa Burn and the future of the Regional event.


How many years have you been going to Burning Man?

I’ve not yet participated in Burning Man.  I was slated to go this year as a part of the Midwest Burners CORE project, but personal illness put a kabouche to that goal.  Look out 2013!


Do you have a Playa name?

I have a Regional Playa name of Iowa Sockmonkey.


Cearaah, an Iowa Burner I had yet to meet except online, and I started planning a camping weekend with local Burners. As we threw out a call to the community for a theme, one of our friends from Kansas piped up “Well, if you were in Kansas, it could be the Wizard of Oz!”  We then replied, “It can STILL be an Oz theme because ‘Toto, we’re NOT in Kansas or Missouri, for ONCE, for a Burn”. All we needed were flying monkeys.


I went to Des Moines that same week and came across a four-foot tall Sock Monkey costume.  I bought it, stuffed it with wood chips, added black bat wings, and posted a pic saying “We have the flying monkey!”  A couple of weeks later at Orphanarium, a Missouri Burn, I was finally able to meet Cearaah.  I recognized her right away and went to say “Hello”.  As we talked, she kept asking me my name – I’d tell her my name and she’d forget and ask me again – finally I said “I’m the one that bought the Sock Monkey!” at which point she screeched “OMG, It’s the Iowa Sockmonkey!” which got EVERYONE’s attention.


It didn’t matter what my real name was or even what I’d been going by for 15 plus years at that point; I was renamed.


Do you volunteer? Coordinate? Etc?

I do coordinate the Iowa Burn with two other Event Coordinators, Devin and Homie and our Regional contact JeffZ.  I have volunteered at all the Regional events that I’ve attended, in multiple capacities.


Interfuse 2011 was my first Midwest Burn event, and after coming back from that, I decided to jump feet first into the local community (local meaning Iowa and three neighboring states!)


It was two weeks prior to the event and Hullaballu 2011 had no effigy designs/proposals. I listened to what people said they were interested in seeing, and submitted a drawing for a simple effigy that we could put together quickly and easily. My degree in Agricultural Education was a huge asset because of the construction knowledge it provides.


We created a spreadsheet of supplies and sent a list of what we needed to the community in order to make it happen.  The community signed up for what they had on hand, we brought it all together and an effigy was built.  It was my first real glimpse of what community has the power to achieve when we have a common goal.


For Interfuse 2012, I was Effigy Deco Co-Lead with Devin, and also worked as a Ranger, TLA (our local version of DPW), and Earth Guardian. I assisted with the Midwest Burners CORE project until health issues sidelined me. The other Regionals I attended this year, Apogaea and Gateway, I’ve solely participated in as a Ranger.


How many Regional Burns have you been to?

In the past two summers, I’ve attended nine Regional Burns and numerous meet-and-greets.


Tell me about the Iowa Burn?

It’s about a community coming together, forming friendships, and creating artwork. Oh yeah, and it ends with a pile of wood on fire!


What did you do there?

As one of the Event Coordinators, the better question is what did I NOT do! I know; I didn’t do any heavy lifting!  I was still on lifting restrictions for the event, unable to lift anything over 15 lbs. I was gifted with a group of great people to remind me to take care of myself and accept the gift of community.  It truly was an event put on by many hands making light work.


That didn’t stop me from having neighbors loading my dome and gear into my truck, to get on site for people to unload and set up, then going back out and having firewood loaded to take back, unloading and going back to the home improvement store and getting the supplies to build the effigy.  A lot of go-fering such as, “Sockmonkey I need you to go for…..”


For all the things I contributed in planning and execution, I still had to work on the lesson of letting others do things for me, which nearly drove me insane!


How many people went?

The 2012 sanctioned event had 88 registered and 67 attendees (55 adults), eight non-camping from six states. In contrast, the 2011 non-sanctioned camping event had 33 attendees, 17 non-camping from two states.


What art was at the Iowa Burn?

Art appeared in the form of domes, sound, food and drinks and effigy.  Devin and I’s previous ThunderPUFF camp was repurposed for the event. There was an eight-foot DINOdome to greet people as they arrived to check-in.  The 13 ½ foot dome served as a sound area, as well as provided well needed warmth with a wood burning stove.


Anglerfish Delic provided lights and sound around a hand painted VW bus. Saturday and Sunday mornings were greeted with “Hot Balls”. Saturday lunch potluck, Home Brew, plied our taste buds with home made root beer and ale and Meh Lounge’s liquid refreshments were doled out with a hint of HATEBARTM from Interfuse.


Saturday evening we were entertained by the children’s theatre presentation of “Dream Dragon”, an original work created just for the event, followed by the burning of the Wooden Horse effigy built utilizing nail less construction.  Nail less construction is going to be a defining characteristic of future effigies.

What made you want to be part of the Iowa Burn?

The art, culture and community that I’ve witnessed being created in the Burning Man community is amazing.  Iowa needs to create some of that similar art, culture, and community.  I got involved to help that grow here and all those that cannot make the desert trip a “home” to have a same type of experience here.


Was there a fire? Effigy? Fire spinning?

Yes, yes, and oh hell yes!


How much bacon was consumed at the Iowa Burn?

We lost track as the hot chocolate (of the peppermint schnapps variety) kept making its rounds to keep us warm in the 28 degree temps!


How did local, non-Burners respond to the event?

The local non-Burners were a delight to work with this year.  The landowner’s neighbors were all aware of the event and there were no issues.  Even though Iowa was under an extensive burn ban during our event, the local fire chief gave us his blessing to have the effigy burn and fire spinning.


Contacting the local authorities with a completed emergency action plan and proof of insurance presented a professionalism that they appreciated versus “hey let’s put all this stuff in a pile and light it on fire!” (Alhough that can be fun too!!!)  The local law enforcement agency, when informed, commented “We’ve got it in the logs in case anyone calls, we’ll let them know we’re aware and it’s ok.”


Are you working with them to expand their knowledge of the Burner culture in your area?

Absolutely!  In the community, I’m trying to encourage more meet-and-greets, fire jams, and the like, though weather has been and will continue to be an issue until spring.


As Event Coordinators, we’ve been networking with local volunteer fire fighters to assist us in fire suppression and looking for other volunteers to help us take the Iowa Burn to the next level.


How can people get involved with the Iowa Burn?

The event needs volunteers in all areas.  Contact us through our website, the Facebook Group, or Burning Man Iowa Announce List


What are the future goals of the Iowa Burn?

Controlled sustainable growth of the event and more artwork are two main two pushes going forward.


What links/ideas do you want people to know about (for the Iowa Burn)?

Iowa Burners on Facebook


One Response to “Iowa’s New Beginnings: The first Iowa Burning Man Regional”
  1. Milton Brown

    I loved ready this article, Sock monkey you are amazing, I am so glad that I was there for my first burn, and all of the HOPs since. You Homie, Devin and everyone involved could never comprehend the difference that this is going to make in so many peoples lives. Thank you for your inspiration and your friendship. Just milt.


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