2017 Location - 4:45 & B
Vines Without Borders
The purpose of Vines Without Borders (Vines) is to create an International Wine Bar and Lounge experience on the playa. This year we are adding a couple nights of life music. Typical of a wine bar; the guitarist and the singer type thing.
Why International? Well, it's a global world and Burning Man is a global phenomenon. And, great wine comes from all corners of the world. One key catalyst for opening our doors to the global tribe was our previous experience with other camps. While running Camp Dawdle, I received requested from people from all over the world to join our little camp, which was ill equipped to support them. So, with Vines, I made a special effort to build an infrastructure and culture of embracing those who arrive from overseas. A home to the travelers so to speak.
This year we have Dubai, the United Kingdom, India, Abu Dubai, Switzerland, France, Canada, Italy and Australia represented in our ranks. Importantly, last year on the playa we had visitors to our camp from Zurich, Canada, and Germany that brought wine from home to share.
The venue is both a bar and lounge. Our public space is about 36' wide and 20' deep; on the left is the back lit bar, and on the right is the lounge with comfy high back chairs, couches, coffee tables, and a wine barrel. All illuminated with chill LED can lights. Atop the bar structure is the infamous "Burner Bug Light", a 36" ball wrapped in hundreds of LED Christmas lights, used to guide wine lovers to our spot.
HOW WE MAKE IT FUN AND INTERACTIVE
First and foremost, we have great wine, no shit. Hey, we live in Silicon Valley, near great wine regions on every point of the compass. Naturally, many of the regional wine makers know Burning Man and have come to support Vines with generous donations. They give us the good stuff. So, over the past three years we have built a reputation for having great wines. Our donators know that this is gifting for Burning Man, a non-commercialized event. And, we prep the wine each afternoon; white wines get fully iced, reds get chilled to perfection. This is a serious operation in that regard.
We build the bar and lounge to be a true wine venue experience. Lighting, music, furniture, and accessories are all aligned to making Vines feel like and be like what someone would experience at any wine bar around the world. Dim, chill lighting, relaxing high back chairs and couches, a wine barrel. Plus, we do music just right, loud enough to dance, but quiet enough that you can still talk – our venue makes it easy to talk and interact with new friends. Our music preference tends to be light rock, some jazz, and pop; a good mix that everyone enjoys. This year, we will have two live music nights. We don't know who is playing yet, but it will be mellow.
Our bar is open every night from 6:00pm to 12 midnight, or later in reality. We staff the bar with four people so that we can give a lot of attention to our guests. We want to spread knowledge of wine and share cultures, so this heavy bar staffing allows us to provide both. During the day when we're not serving, we invite people into the lounge with a sign that reads, "We're Not Pouring, But You're Welcome to Come Into the Lounge and Hang Out". We do get the munchies, so snacks are key. Each night we provide light snacks of nuts, crackers, cured meats, baguette and nice cheeses. Plus, to keep hydrated, we have a water jug right on the bar for people to self serve.
In the past we did regional wine based themes each night. This year, we’re shifting gears and retiring the regional wine themes to do a couple outfit themes on the nights we don’t have live music. One of those will be “Formal Wear Night”, break out the tux and gown. We have not selected the other themes yet, but I like caveman night. We do games too; Jenga and Condema are our staples. New this year, blind tastings and blind sculpting contests. So, mold a figurine while drinking wine with a blindfold. See if it looks like what you intended.
We are an experienced team. We plan, prepare and execute well. We have seasoned leads for the work schedule, gray water, kitchen, MOOP, setup, teardown, and wine. Part of our seriousness in preparing is attending the Theme Camp Symposium which we did again this year (four years running now). We are growing in size to about 50 this year from 40 last year. Importantly in that growth is that 30 are repeats, only 20 virgins, the same number as we’ve had the first three years. We’re adding some real estate, a common dining table and two nights of live music. Not too much to bite off compared to the overall effort. We will get it done and done right, no worries.
With nearly 50 campers this year, we will still have around 20 virgins to bring onboard. It's our obligation to these newbies to make sure they arrive both mentally and physically prepared.
We seek campers who want to be part of our wine bar theme. If someone writes us asking about "what we provide" and not asking us about "what we do", then they are not a good fit for us. We recruit people into Vines who are enthusiastic about our mission. Once they are onboard for that, we find it much easier to bring them along on the entire Burning Man ethos and principles.
We promote "Everybody Participates". In our video calls with candidates, we emphasize this by explaining it means that they participate in both the camp and on the playa. In camp, they have to do their camp work schedule, but we explain that it means they also just help out around camp without having to be asked to do so. This re-enforces Communal Effort and Civic Responsibility. We tell them that on the playa they are the art, they are the event, they are the entertainment, they are the helpers.
We started doing video calls last year to introduce the virgins to at least one other camper before they arrive on the playa. Now, we have expanded that to doing several video calls with past campers to let them meet more of us prior to arriving on the playa. All of this accelerates the coming together of our camp members into a tight community. In those calls, it becomes clear that our camp has a wide variety of members and that gay couples are part of our mix.
The Face Board was new for us last year, but really helps our camp get to know each other. It's a big poster with everybody's name, county of origin, and picture. New this year we will have a camp orientation as new members arrive. Walking them through the camp's key infrastructure elements: how to run the generator, how to use the sun shower, how to wash dishes, how to operate the BBQs, etc.
Each year we visit our neighbors on day one. This is one of my favorite times since everyone is just setting up and really enthusiastic about the week ahead. As a chill wine bar, our music is not blasted, so we don't intrude on our neighbors' with unwanted noise.
The wine bar and lounge is a 600 square foot space centered at the front of our camp. We’re a nighttime camp and our cool LED lighting and soft music invites people in. To help highlight where we are located, we hoist our landmark “Burner Bug Light” above the bar. This is a 36” ball wrapped with 3000 colored LED lights, that guides burners to us. For curb appeal, we push the RV’s to the backside of camp and park the cars on the front edges since they don’t block the view to the bar.
The bar itself is about 16 feet long and illuminated from behind with colored LED lights. We have eight classic bar stools. Opposite the bar is the lounge that is populated with quasi-antique high back chairs, couches and coffee tables. Then, between the two sides is a full on wine barrel donated by one of our wine maker friends. Lighting is all LED in hand made light fixtures decorated with ancient scriptures and dimmed for creating a relaxed mood.
Our structure is the typical shade structure of tube posts and beams with tarps. We separate the front public area from the rear camp space which is about 48’x60’. The back area houses the common kitchen and tenters. New this year will be a long series of tables to make our “Common Table” for meals. We properly store gas in one corner with the kitchen, generator, and BBQ in the opposite corner. The entire structure is bordered by the RVs on the back half and cars near the road, leaving a semi circle path clear for service and emergency vehicle access.