Barbara Ann Peterson: I had to get dropped off here yesterday because the man that I went out with to Burning Man, he had an RV, and it had a major mechanical problem. So I got a ride back with some friends. I have to hang out here two days until I get my rental car. Then I’m off for two weeks to Colorado.Who was the guy with the RV?
He is 84 years old. This is his 14th year. I met him last year at Burning Man. He has a wife here in Vegas who never goes to Burning Man and I have a husband back in Florida who came once with me to Burning Man and he’ll never go back. [Laughs] I brought my daughter the last four years. She didn’t go with me this year because she just started law school. We were camping at this thing called Party Naked Tiki Bar and I met this guy with this beautiful, big RV and he invited me to get out of the tent and come in the RV with him. So I kept in touch with him all year. Last year, he had a mock wedding. His son came out. My daughter was the maid of honor. It was really funny.
How does the RV experience compare to the tents?
A photo posted by barbara peterson (@burningman_grandma) on Aug 12, 2015 at 5:16am PDT
Luxury! Total, total luxury. Air conditioning during the day, shelter from the dust storms…Does that take away from the Burning Man experience?
Not at my age. But I’ve done it both ways.And you live in a senior citizen community in Florida?
I live in an active adult community, yeah.Do your neighbors and friends there know that you go to Burning Man every year?
Yes. [Laughs]What do they make of it?
They think I’m nuts. They think I’m totally off the wall, gone bonkers, and they could never do it. They don’t want to do it. Dust storms, no showers, your hair becomes ridden with clay, you go in those nasty Port-a-Potties. None of the people back in my community would do it.I’m a nudist, also. I love being there because I can run around naked all the time. But my friends that live in this active adult community, most of them are not nudists. Last year I came back and my hair was pink and they were all like, “Oh my god, your hair is pink!” And I said, “It’s just Burning Man.” And they said, “What’s Burning Man?” And I said, “I can’t explain it to you. Go on the computer. Go to Burning Man dot com.”
What brought you to Burning Man in the first place?
A photo posted by barbara peterson (@burningman_grandma) on Aug 29, 2015 at 12:09pm PDT
I had a girlfriend that lived in Miami and her and her husband had been [to Burning Man] for four years. And they have regional Burns all over the country. And in Florida, they have regional Burns twice a year. So my friend said, “Barbara, why don’t you come to a regional Burn and see what it’s all about and what wonderful people they are.” So I tried the regional Burn which was at a ranch in Lakeland, Florida. And I started going to those twice a year for four years. And I started talking to people about their experiences at Burning Man, and they said, “You can do it! You’re in great shape for your age. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t try it.”
What are the challenges of going to Burning Man in your 70s?
A photo posted by barbara peterson (@burningman_grandma) on Sep 6, 2015 at 9:43pm PDT
Well I’m in good shape, but I would think the tremendous amount of ground you have to cover on a bicycle and/or walking at night time. At my age, I don’t go out to the playa at night even though my bike is lit up because there’s too many crazy people out there with no sense of direction, and a lot of drinking and drugging. And then there’s soft spots in the sand. I’ve taken a couple of tumbles and finally said, “That’s it, no biking at night.” So if you’re in good shape, you can do it. It’s not for someone with disabilities, but there are people out there with wheelchairs. Their disabilities don’t get in their way if they really wanna do it.What are the misconceptions of Burning Man?
I think people think it’s all drugs and they’re out there doing acid and hippies and wild and crazy parties. And yes, there are people that do that and there are many people that don’t. They go out to appreciate the incredible talent of the artists and the art cars they’ve created and the interaction and love of the community. It’s not all drugs and nakedness.
I smoke pot. That’s about it. I don’t do acid or pills or anything. Just pot.
What keeps you going every year?
A photo posted by barbara peterson (@burningman_grandma) on Aug 28, 2015 at 11:35am PDT
The art. The genius intelligent minds of these people and the labor of putting these art projects together, and then taking them down a week later. You can’t believe these things can be possibly built by human beings.Oh, another thing I love is the Dr. Bronner foam bath. It’s a big, huge tent you go into and there’s these two shower stalls and all the people get undressed and there’s maybe 25, 30 people in a shower stall, side by side. And then on the top layer, people are standing above and high-power hose them down with ice cold water and then they spray Dr. Bronner’s peppermint soap. It’s this foam, and it gets in your eyes and you can’t see what you’re doing. Everybody shampoos everybody else’s hair. That is one of the most incredible experiences. You’re all clean and the music is playing and you have a blast!Pretend I’m a fellow septuagenarian in your retirement community. How would you sell me on it?
I’ve done a lot of things in my life, and this is the most incredible experience I’ve ever had, and nothing else on this planet could excite me more than this event. You know, we live near Disney and I go to Disney now and then to see the fireworks, and I say, “Gah, this is so boring!”Dan Ozzi is not at Burning Man but he is on Twitter.