FireDrums 2016


RB: Hi All! So as aforementioned, we’ve started a travel section to the blog. Our first entry is not a long one.

We went to FireDrums 2016, which was located at the Blue Mountain Event Center in Wilseyville, CA. The event took place from June 2-5, 2016.

We personally drove up to a friend’s house through Tuesday night, slept there Wednesday and were off for the location on Thursday morning! What is FireDrums, you may ask? For that, we should ask our fellow author, inspyred!

inspyred: Deep in the woods of Northern California, a mix of casual hobbyists, professional performers, students,and teachers gather to shed the standard mechanics of their normal lives, dust off the parts of our mind that we were told should be put away after childhood is over, and come out to play.

FireDrums is one of the biggest fire festivals on the U.S. West Coast, hosted by the Flow Arts Institute; 2016’s festival was from June 2nd to the 5th, and it was my fourth in a row. The primary focus of the festival is the learning, teaching, sharing, and celebration of Flow Arts. The flow arts which I personally practice are primarily ball and club juggling, poi, rope dart, and have recently assembled a pair of fire fans that are much harder to use than I had expected.

The daylight hours of the festival are filled with workshops featuring a huge variety of topics, from specific genres of prop manipulation to discussions of culture to group meditation sessions. I enjoy attending whatever prop manipulation workshops pique my fancy, though many people simply wander around sharing circus tricks, socializing, reading, writing, drawing, swimming in a nearby stream, exploring the forest, or whatever they may feel inclined to do at the moment. There are also a host of vendors of props for manipulation, as well as food, clothing, and various artistic creations. For me personally, the biggest draw of the event is the radically free social atmosphere.

At night, however, the main attraction shifts to the fire circle which is set up in a large clearing, surrounded by fire pits and volunteer fire-safeties holding fire blankets (a duvetyne cloth treated with fire retardant) focused on keeping everyone safe. The festival is largely free-spirited in terms of how you wish to enjoy it, but fire safety is one of few things taken extremely seriously. Any open fire outside of the designated areas are explicitly forbidden, and this policy is rigorously enforced, with the fuel dump of the fire circle being brightly illuminated and very plainly distinguished from the surroundings with bright orange partitions. Once their props are dipped, each spinner takes to the fire circle and joins in the collective celebration of fire, everyone deliberately dancing with the deep, primal instinct of aversion to fire, to the sound of various electronic music artists (as well as the Humboldt Drummers) played out of speakers with the bass often heavy enough to reverberate in my chest from anywhere in the campground.

Here’s a video taken of Nicky Evers (a.k.a. DJ Nevers) in the fire circle while Kevin Axtell announced the closing of the fuel depot on the final morning of this year’s Fire Drums. Many (myself included) stay up until sunrise on Saturday night.
I have found that, as much as I could develop my prop manipulation skills on that night with so many other incredibly skilled people (though I did spin some fire), my favorite way to spend it was walking around and simply striking up conversations with people, as well as keeping a notebook with me and writing whenever inspiration strikes… which tends to happen at fire festivals.
Most others seem to either alternate between spinning fire and watching everyone else spinning fire, or just simply hanging around, socializing, some painting, some writing, others simply dancing to the music… everyone so clearly happy to be there, in a very contagious way. I look forward to next time… hopefully next year for us.

RB: So over the duration of the trip, while inspyred was doing his workshops, I was exploring the area and lounging about with my book! Here are some photos:



By the time Day 3 (Saturday) came around, we were burned out (a good pun by the way), and decided to do some exploring! We went off the campsite, and hiked to a river, where we ended up jumping in with our clothes on! The water was frigid, but it was about 95 degrees Fahrenheit outside, so the cold was welcome. We explored the bugs in the area, learned about different kinds of larvae (dragonfly and mosquito), and then headed back to the campsite! All in all, a beautiful trip!

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