Who Works the Gate? Great People! Maybe You?

The folks working the Gate are great people … and you might not realize this but they’re ALL volunteers. And they work HARD. Take a moment to learn more about this amazing crew, and you might just find that volunteering for the Gate is right for you!

This great video (thanks to the LOVE project) highlights the work of some of the volunteers who make the gate run. We’ve also got the transcript of a nice interview with Shimmer, an Exodus Pulsing volunteer working the job. Finally, you can learn the nuts and bolts of how the Gate works in our Gate FAQ. If you’re interested in volunteering with this hardy crew, visit our Gate participation page or visit the V-Spot on playa, in Center Camp next to Playa Info.

(WARNING: Volunteering may lead to meeting really incredible people and developing an amazing sense of accomplishment and belonging by helping to make BRC possible. You have been warned!)

Our LOVE crew showed up Monday of Labor Day, 2011, and talked to Shimmer at the last Pulsing spot. Here is what she said made her volunteer experience tick:

Narrator: OK. Great. So hi. So quickly, what do you love about volunteering here at Burning Man?

Shimmer, photo by Ana Grillo, 2011

Shimmer: It’s a great way to meet people without having to search that out. You go in and you meet a whole group of new people every time no matter what place you volunteer at. And I’m a first time Burner, so for me, that was really good.

Man off Camera: Shimmer, open up the next lane over. They’re going to go straight through.

Shimmer: OK hon. (to Camera) He’s my ex-husband. My first ex-husband. [laughter]

Narrator: [laughter]

Shimmer: Yeah. So–

Narrator: So you’re working with your ex-husband?

Shimmer: Yeah. I have 2 of them. [laughter]

Narrator: Are they both here?

Shimmer: No. Thank God. One’s enough. [laughter] He’s a third-year Burner and he told me about the Burn, and I’ve always wanted to come, but I have a 17-year-old daughter, so this is the first year I’ve been able to actually make the commitment to get here. So I’m pretty excited. It’s a wonderful weekend.

Narrator: What was the catalyst that brought you to Burning Man?

Shimmer: We have a thing in Oregon called the Oregon Country Fair, which is kind of like this, and I went camping there last year. So I figured I’m going to do this this year because next year my daughter goes off to college and I’m going to play before I need to be a serious

Cars: People honking and waving as they drive by. Honk! Honk! Honk!

Shimmer: (waving and smiling) Yay!!! Stay in your lane! [honk honk] Stay in this lane. Stay in this lane, bud. (talking to husband) I’m going to hop over to the other side.

Shimmer in action, photo by Ana Grillo, 2011

Shimmer: (Talking to cars) Hi. Stay in your lane. Thank you. Stay in the lane. There you go. Woo hoo. Stay in this lane. Stay in this lane. Nice. See you guys. Stay in your lane for me. Thank you. Hey, stay in this lane. Woo hoo. You’re home. Almost. Stay in this one. There we go. Come on. Come on.

Shimmer: The thing I’m learning about volunteering and being here for the first time is that I’m actually a lot more powerful than I thought. Well, I think I am pretty powerful. But the smallest thing that I do could actually change someone, so that’s really cool. When I can smile and somebody smiles back, that feels very powerful.

Narrator: Is anything in this experience changing you?

Shimmer: I think I’m going to be a better mom to my teenager [she laughs] because I’ve watched lot of young people out here be very responsible, even though you can be totally irresponsible out here. And I think it will help me be a lot more relaxed in my default real life with people who may have issues. I think I’ve learned a lot about being real calm in the presence of all sorts of chaos and wonderfulness.

About the author: Kristy Evans

Kristy Evans is a senior manager in the Gate, Perimeter and Exodus Department, where she has helped manage the task of getting people in and out of BRC since 2007. The logistics of traffic, people movement, and staffing a huge department still fascinate her, and with an ever growing Black Rock City there is always more work to do. She first made the trek to the Black Rock Desert in 2003 and began volunteering in 2005 with Gate. She is a member of the Burning Man Leadership Forum and you can read the rest of her bio here.

30 Comments on “Who Works the Gate? Great People! Maybe You?

  • Tunta says:

    Frequently there is a gate tax that many burners are unaware of. That tax is usually paid in the form of one or more of your bottles of good booze being taken by gate crew. Not all of them do this, but you should take precautions.

    When a member of gate crew is inspecting your vehicle for stowaways, one trick that is used is another member of gate crew will bring you forward to the cab of your vehicle for no apparent reason. The reason is actually so that you take your eyes off your belongings while the other crew member sizes up what’s available to take.

    If you think this isn’t true, visit gate crew’s camp on Sunday and then again on Tuesday. Where’d all that booze come from?

    Great people!

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  • harinama says:

    Gate crew is awesome, thanks for this little snippet into their hard work. They, along with dpw have one of the toughest jobs out there.

    @tunta-there’s a few bad apples in every bunch. They are protecting all of us in BRC from unwanted elements that try to sneak in. If a few of them grab a bottle or two here or there, big whoop!

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  • adrienne says:

    i love this video–they seem like great crew of volunteers and i will be honored to meet them :)

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  • Kristy Evans says:

    @Tunta- If you have had a negative experience with Gate, I encourage you to talk to any Manager or Shift Lead. We absolutely do not allow stealing. Ever. We take pride in the work we do and address issues that are brought to us.

    The booze in our camp comes primarily from us. We provide some basic alcohol, but much of what you see there is donated by our own staff. Over the last year our own crew put in money to self-fund the building and stocking of a new bar.

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  • Gate Mentor says:

    Hi Tunta.

    That’s a pretty nasty blanket accusation you have there.

    I’m going to back up Kristy here and suggest that if you’ve had negative experiences with the gate, please come talk to one of the managers or shift leads.

    There are many reasons why our crew works in teams of two to process your vehicle, one is safety, and the other most important is speed and efficiency.

    I can say 100% without a doubt we do NOT allow stealing of any kind at Gate, and that being caught taking something that doesn’t belong to you is grounds for dismissal.

    We have a mentor team that helps train and enculturate newbies and veterans alike to ensure that your volunteer Gate staff remains professional in the face of adversity.

    The liquor that is in our staff bar comes from donations within camp and gifts from participants who’ve had pleasant experiences with us — which I challenge are more than those who’ve had negative ones.

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  • Liger says:


    you can’t go around saying gate crew steals. you’re painting everyone with a dirty brush. i’ve worked the gate and i can tell you 100% that not all gate crew steals, some of them haven’t learned how to do it it yet.

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  • Ginger says:

    @Kristy Evans
    “I encourage you to talk to any Manager or Shift Lead.”

    LOL! Seriously?

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  • Kristy Evans says:

    Ginger, of course I am serious. True fact: we’re not scary and I challenge you to find out in person! I’m on playa for three weeks and anyone at the Gate knows how to reach me. The rest of our senior managers too.

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  • Ginger says:

    @Kristy Evans


    You must be new.

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  • Kristy Evans says:

    8 years and counting.

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  • harinama says:


    I’ve had more than enough negativity this year from downer burners about everything from tickets to exodus. There are a dozen reasons to gripe, but a THOUSAND reasons to be excited about this year, and the rockin volunteers that will help to make it great.

    Something tells me Tunta has never even considered volunteering for BRC…

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  • Ginger says:

    8 years. The same year repeated 8 times in a row.

    Honey, you’re not going to change the long standing culture of thievery by the gate crew by being lifted into a position of authority by the BMorg. You’ll hold your meetings, and you’ll tell your people that theft is not allowed/tolerated, etc. And then you’ll go off to your camp and ignore the top-shelf liquor that magically appears (amongst other items). They’ll say, ‘Oh that was a gift!’. And you’ll believe them or not.

    And if you dare say anything against it formally, you’ll be managing cafe village next year, until they kick you down to… what’s below cafe village? dunno… back to being a citizen, i suppose.

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  • Kristy Evans says:

    Yes, the negativity is unfortunate. There are some pretty strong assumptions made about how Gate works, and alas many are so far from the truth. It is our hope that these blog posts will let you know a little more about who we are and what we do. Of course the only way to really know is to volunteer with us. I joined the Gate many years ago and started doing more with the department because I saw how it could be better. Maybe you can too!

    Will have more new folks with us in 2012 than ever before. So many have already volunteered that our schedule is nearly full.

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  • HK says:

    Now I’m paranoid about getting ripped off.
    Though I will add that this will be my sixth Burn and there has never been a whiff of a problem in the past.

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  • Petunia says:

    @HK – I’ve never had a problem and it sounds like you haven’t either. I wouldn’t sweat a bunch of attention seekers on the internet.

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  • HK says:

    Still…. I will be wary and will react harshly if…

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  • FunnyChell says:

    I happen to know 2 very important Gate Staff Members/Shift Leads. They take their job VERY seriously. And it’s a very fun and rewarding job to have. I’ve had the privilege of meeting quite a few people of gate staff, and they are all amazing people.
    I’m sad to hear about the unfortunate events that may have occurred, but hell, who hasn’t had a bike stolen/misplaced or any personal belonging “missing” out there? I mean are you going to lump every BRC citizen into such a critical category. If so, why do you even go to Burning Man? Things happen, and if something as your alcohol being stolen at the gate happens, seriously say something to a shift lead. They’re really cool. Naked Bob has been to the burn for 20 years, and it’s his 17th year on gate. He would be pissed to know that staff members are “stealing”. And this is my dad’s 10th year on the gate. Again, no stealing happening from them. In fact, roll up to their camp, and they’ll be happy to give you a beer! Gate Staff ROCKS!!!!

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  • JuneBug says:

    “seriously say something to a shift lead.”

    That’s a good idea. After finally settling into camp, and lifting the gate on your rig to discover that your best top-shelf liquor has vanished, one should get back in your vehicle, drive up to the gate and demand to speak to a shift-lead so that you can formally make a complaint.

    Burner: I’d like to make a complaint. Someone on gate crew stole much of our alcohol.

    Gate: Who checked out your vehicle, Mr. Burner.

    Burner: I don’t know who they where, but they took most of our best booze.

    Gate: We’ll look into that, sir. Have a nice burn.

    Burner: Fuck!

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  • Yona says:

    Very Simple Solution:

    Keep your booze securely taped within a box. Don’t wait until Reno to buy your alcohol supplies, else it will be a temptation for theft while going through the gate.

    If you’re unable to secure your alcohol, make sure you keep and damn good eye on gate crew as they’re rummaging through your stuff. Don’t leave them unattended. Make a note what they enter with and what they exit with. Don’t allow yourself to be distracted. Assign a member of your vehicle crew to be security for the contents of your vehicle.

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  • Whitney says:

    Ive never had a problem with Gate. They’ve always asked before taking& of course I don’t mind they work their asses off!! Happy to be volunteering with the this year for the first time! You guys rock!!!!! See you soon in the dust!!!

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  • cheap tequila says:

    True story. Last year, the Gate people tried to build a bridge out of me to see if I was made of wood (and therefore a witch). When that didn’t succeed, they turned me into a newt.

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  • bozofish says:

    My 7 years of gate search experiences have been efficient and relatively brief. My guess is packing efficiently helps. If your trunk, van, truck looks like an escape in the night shit show, well…prepare to be boarded. How can they even see what’s in there?

    We’ve always made it a practice to gift the gate crewers who’ve greeted my/our vehicle with a couple of cans of cold beer or soda (depending on their preference). They’ve been in the hot sun having to deal with both the clued-in and the clueless. I consider it a symbolic return to the gifting community.

    Frankly, if your take is based on “look at all that THEY have…”, you might be in the wrong place. Certainly, you’re in the wrong state of mind.

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  • Id suggest bringing a bottle of shelf booze or some other treat to personally bestow on the selfishless gate keepers, as a token of gratitude and appreciation for their extremely hard and incomfortable job they volenteered to do, the more you give the more you recieve, as in the joy on their faces just being acknowledged and thanked for all they go thru to get your asses in and commencing your experience at the burning man.

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  • Joshypants says:

    If someone takes something from your stuff why wouldn’t you just sit there until they give it back. Call the rangers….call the other gate crew…..call the damn police. Then when that doesnt work….Punch them the fuck out.

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  • Robn says:

    As always I’ll be packing an extra bottle of something especially nice for the hardworking GATE crew! I also make sure to save something back for the hard working EXODUS crew.

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  • Cornrow says:

    We have been coming to burning man since the 90’s and I think Robn posted the perfect message! Happy Burn everyone that is able to make it this year! Bless all the Volunteers for helping to make this happen every year !

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  • Jim says:

    My first burn … how do I volunteer … I’m a good apple who likes to work … this sounds FUN … I’m a winner, not a whiner!!! AND, I will be there early (early pass to assist in set-up)

    AND, I will also be packing something extra for the gate crew … gifting, it begins right at the gate!!

    Peace in … Peace throughout!!

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  • Gate Volunteer says:

    A big thanks to those people who recognize the hard work of the Gate, Perimeter, and Exodus volunteers. I work with gate in a number of capacities and will be headed out in just a couple of days to join my fellows. To any nay-sayers, I encourage you to accept Kristy’s challenge: COME WORK WITH US!

    I think you will find that while we’re a bit rough around the edges, we’re open, accepting, honest and hard-working folk. While it’s one of the more challenging volunteer positions at BRC, it can be one of the most rewarding.

    I sincerely hope that people have a wonderful experience going through gate this year! :) I’ll be seeing you in the dust!

    P.S. Kristy is a freaking awesome part of the management team of PG&E. She is well respected by her volunteers and works tirelessly to make sure that we are safe, well taken care of, having a great time, following the rules, and are trained perfectly.

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  • Jessica says:

    Love the video!! Lots of hard working people volunteer so we can all have a positive experience! Unfortunatley, I do know two people who work gate, and have for years that plan on stealing a few bikes while at BM. I think to go with the intent of stealing is such a bummer. Especially since bikes get people around at BM. I’ve also heard them mention how easy it is to steal tickets from box office. :(

    I know there are plenty of hard workers out there! And there’s bound to be a few bad eggs with so many people, but it’s just a bummer to know people personally that plan to steal. It’s those people who ruin the experience for some.

    Just make sure to lock your bike at all times!!! And the suggestion for keeping alcohol in a box that sealed up is also great. Be ready before you hit Reno and you won’t have things laying around in your car if you feel you can get past the gate without being robbed.


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  • HK says:

    Thanks Jessica..I plan to keep both my eyes on this crowd.
    And to the folks who are urging a “gift” by way of not getting ripped off…isn’t that just bribery? Or, at least, some sort of shakedown?

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