Join the Circus! South Florida Burners Kickin’ It Carny Style!

For the few hundred Burning Man participants from South Florida, Black Rock City can feel like it’s a world away. Not only are the Burners there separated from the playa by great distance (it takes five days of driving to get to Burning Man), but, as Jack Trash from Ft. Lauderdale jokes, “we have such a high water table but no ‘underground.’” Longing for opportunities to express their inner creativity in a place where the status quo reigns supreme, Jack and a tight-knit crew of doers and art-makers decided to bring the spirit of Black Rock City to their hometown.

And, what? What did these crazy Burners do? They built a zany, colorful, and interactive CIRCUS!

Photo by Bruce Almberg

Last weekend, as part of Ft. Lauderdale’s FAT Village Artwalk, the “Circus Basura” came to life! When Ft. Lauderdale residents came upon the circus, they were greeted with a “Step right up!” and were invited to participate in costumed photo shoots, games, and the quirky experiences of circus life! The suite of boardwalk games the “Circus Basura” barkers offer runs the gamut from silly to satirical. As part of the game “1% Pachinko,” one could put on a top hat and monocle, drop a gold coin down the slot and see where it landed. The gag is that the gold coin never makes it to the bottom but gets stuck along the way on banks, yachts, and fat cat bellies. The gag prizes included the highly coveted collection of Olivia Newton John workout DVDs and a host of other completely ridiculous and trash “basura” prizes. “The Circus Basura,” Jack explains, “is whatever you make it.” The game, costumes, and the antics of the circus crew combine to create a grand sense of play. The circus is an umbrella under which anyone can be whatever they want to be. It’s especially exciting that a circus of freaks is flourishing in South Florida because it’s something new for people to experience, it pushes boundaries and creates room for more radical acts of expression.

Photo by Bruce Almberg

The talented crew behind the “Circus Basura” has a history working together. Many of the South Florida Burners came together when Burners Without Borders mobilized to provide relief to Haitians in the wake of the earthquake. Several of the local Burners are airplane mechanics and they made daily runs to the airfields to repair planes that were taking food and supplies to survivors of the disaster. And, back in 2009, the crew transformed an old bus into a double decker art mobile fit for the playa. The South Floridians drove the “Nautibus” 3,800 miles to the Black Rock desert and gave rides to participants around the desert. “Building the bus was a really unifying experience for the Florida crew,” Jack says. With the costs of operating the bus and transporting it to the desert rising each year, the crew decided to skip bringing the bus to the desert this year. Instead, they’ve loaned it to their Burner brethren in Tennessee for the Summer and the TN Burners are working on restoring the bus and will take it to their first local Tennessee burn, Serendipity.
With the Nautibus project on a bit of a hiatus, the crew quickly rallied behind the “Circus Basura.” The circus has given the local Burners an outlet for their energy and creativity and, as Jack explains, “[They] all just like working together and being around each other.” The crew has been sewing costumes, building sets, and coming up with ideas for the circus for months. It seems that this past weekend’s successful presence at the FAT Village Art Walk is just the beginning. In early November, the “Circus Basura” will participate in Ft. Lauderdale’s annual Day of the Dead processional. They’ll be working in collaboration with Jim Hammond, a local puppeteer and set designer, to create giant skull masks and parade floats. There’s also been talk of a Day of the Dead costume ball. “There’s just nothing like this in South Florida! We’re excited we are taking the circus to the streets and that the folks here get to experience what we’re all about, what keeps us going to Burning Man year after year,” Jack muses. There are also plans for a few guerilla circus experiences in the area. For Jack, providing these circus experiences, “opens the door for anybody to try anything and enables people to do things they don’t normally do.” We can’t wait to see what the “Circus Basura” crew tries next!

Photo by Bruce Almberg

Want to run off and join the circus?

For more information on “Circus Basura,” you can feel free to contact with CIRCUS BASURA in the subject line and to check out their Facebook page

Want to build a circus in your own town?

Do it, you crazy Burner! Bring the big top, bring the noise, bring the red noses, and then tell us all about it!

Jack Trash’s advice to all of us: “Don’t dream little dreams. Dream big ones!”

Thank you, we’ll see you on the HIGH WIRE!

About the author: Megs Rutigliano

Megs Rutigliano

Meghan "Megs" Rutigliano is Burning Man's Associate Director of the Regional Network. She oversees Burning Man's annual Global Leadership Conference and European Leadership Summit. Meghan explores the art, events and culture of various regional Burning Man communities in her blog posts.

6 Comments on “Join the Circus! South Florida Burners Kickin’ It Carny Style!

  • moot says:

    wow, i couldn’t care less.

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  • Emerson Shipldiplson says:


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  • sirfinn says:

    wow moot. Why would you pick on the little rascals putting on a show? At least they are doing something. Your sitting on your grande arse being a critic and living your virtual life. You should try going outside every once and a while. Its way more fun than video games… I know its scary and you might have to interact with people, but that’s where the real fun is. In my free time I will try to provide more entertaining internet content for you amusement.

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  • John Dickson says:

    Hey moot and shipldipl – Are really wearing those negative expressions on this Beautiful Day? ^ be the light or be the :( your choice, but please don’t bring that poopy pout here, thank you.

    Awesome Burner Energy Circus Basura!

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  • Noggin says:

    I heard you guys are still in need of a strong man, so I attached my resume

    John “The Champ” Noggin

    1980-Present Strong

    Also certified in Russia as a Бородатая леди (aka Beared Lady)

    I’ll work for scraps of food, booze and 2 cigars daily.

    References available upon request.

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