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|Location(s)||Bailey, Colorado, United States|
|Inaugurated||July 16-19, 2004 |
|Most recent||June 4-8, 2014 |
Apogaea (meaning "far from Earth") is an annual collaborative outdoor arts and music festival held as a Colorado regional counterpart for the Burning Man event. Typically held in late spring (held June 4-8 in 2014) in the mountains of Colorado, Apogaea ("Apo"), establishes a temporary autonomous zone where radical self-expression, inclusiveness, and self-reliance are the hallmarks of its participants.
Like the Burning Man event, Apogaea includes art installations, performance art, DJ-music, live music, camps, and theme camps. Apogaea has a Creative Grants program that provides financial assistance for artists wanting to create visual art, performances or events, workshops, art vehicles, or theme camps for Apogaea; this grant cycle generally begins in January. In past years, nearly 50% of Apogaea's operating budget was given out as creative grants. In 2009 a second grant cycle (the "Bonus Round") was added to allow projects that didn't need as much time or money to complete to receive grants. As of 2014, Apogaea is the most art-centric of North American Regionals with art grants for 2014 totaling $50,000.
Theme camps at Apogaea have included the cowboy-themed Dome on the Range, the hillbilly-themed Smokin' Bones BBQ and Blues, the cat-themed Purrfectly Pink Pussie Palace, the Green Screen Project, Hula Hideaway, Xpat Alien and The Lair of the TWRG. Like many Burning Man-inspired events, fire art plays a large part, and includes performance art, such as fire dancing, as well as stationary art that incorporates propane or wood fires. Apogaea has generally had a central "effigy" that burns on the Saturday night of the event. However, all fire at Apogaea is subject to local or regional fire bans in dry or dangerous conditions; Apogaea 2006 and 2012 were under such a ban and had limited propane fire art and no effigy burn.
Effigies at Apogaea:
2004: no effigy
2006: Phoenix (not burned due to fire ban)
2010: Communigy (integrating pieces created by individual community members)
2011: Cocoon and Butterfly
2012: Blossom (not burned due to fire ban)
2014: Throne of the Emergent Multitude
Temples at Apogaea:
2011: Temple of Moon
2013: Temple of Transubstantiation
2014: Temple of Infinite Life
Themes for Apogaea:
No themes prior to the 2008 event.
2008: Smells like Community Spirit
2009: Organized Chaos
2010: Artropolis ("Hailogaea" became the unofficial theme for the event after a hail filled weekend)
2012: The Spiral
Apogaea is organized and run by an unpaid Board of Directors and a wider circle of volunteer leads ("Apogaea Ignition") in areas such as Art, Safety, Operations, Communications, Administration, Outreach, and Volunteers.
From 2008 to 2012, Apogaea ran from Thursday noon to dusk Sunday. Starting in 2013, Apo expanded to run from Wednesday through Sunday evening. Ticket prices were increased in 2014 from $100 to $115 online with no gate sales, making Apogaea the most expensive Regional ticket in North America. 2011 was the first year that a sales cap was in place and the event sold out in mid-May. Due to its growing popularity, tickets for the event sold out in under four hours in 2012, spawning an alternate event named "Neoformia" held during the same time as Apogaea and located at Apogaea's previous location at the Happy Ass Ranch. Attendance for 2014 was capped at approximately 2,100 attendees.
Apogaea is an all-ages event, though minors must be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian, and those under 21 are given a different color wristband. Past attendees have organized kid-friendly camping areas with planned activities for children.
There are generally no free tickets given out (e.g., for volunteers, artists, or musicians), because of the philosophy that everyone attending is expected to contribute something to the event--whether it's their volunteer work, their participation, their camp, art, costumes, performance, or creativity--and Apogaea is not in a position to judge or value the merits of one person's contribution, creativity, or time over another's.
Apogaea is generally held in early June, in an attempt to hold the event late enough in the spring that it's not freezing at night that high in the mountains, yet early enough to avoid dry-season fire bans or restrictions. For 2014, Apogaea was held during the days of June 4-8.
Apogaea has a perfect track record in terms of fire safety. All state and local fire-bans are strictly observed and Apogaea's volunteer leads work with county officials to implement safe and reasonable alternatives during fire bans. In 2012, the main effigy was not burned due to such a fire ban, but officials and voluneters worked together to implement a stunning fire parade. Propane flame effects were allowed as were propane burn barrels with the usual safety precautions taken. Any participant wishing to use fire in art, camp, or performance pieces is subject to fire-safety restrictions and is assisted and monitored by a team of volunteers trained in fire safety.
From 2001 to 2003, a summer festival known as Geodesika took place in the mountains of Colorado. This was not an official Burning Man-sanctioned festival, but nevertheless held to Burning Man's philosophy and tenets, and many attendees were also Burning Man attendees. After disagreement between Geodesika's founder and other festival organizers about how the festival should be run, the latter created a group to start a new, official Burning Man regional festival, named Apogaea.
The first order of business for the new festival was to find a place to hold it. Isolation from populated areas, proximity to the Front Range of Colorado, suitability for camping for hundreds of people, cost, terrain, and altitude/nighttime temperatures were considerations in finding a place to hold Apogaea.
Another Colorado festival, Dreamtime, had private land near Paonia, Colorado, on which they'd been holding a festival, and offered the land to Apogaea. It was decided to run a joint festival in 2004, "Apogaea in Dreamtime." While successful, differences in philosophies led the organizers of both festivals to agree that a joint festival would not work in the long term.
Apogaea then found a landowner with space near Lake George, Colorado, who had hosted other festivals. The forested space, known as the Happy Ass Ranch, was the location for Apogaea for six consecutive years from 2005 to 2010. A steady annual increase in attendance presented certain challenges for the festival in terms of size and space limitations of its former home at Happy Ass Ranch. The approximately 1,100 participants in 2010, while successfully accommodated on the site, presented parking and camping challenges for the organizers of the event. Since 2011 Apogaea has taken place on a larger and more visually stunning site a few miles south of Bailey, Colorado.
As with any other large scale event, Apogaea has faced challenges and growing pains. Fortunately, Apogaea volunteers have worked hard to implement an organizational scheme and infrastructure to meet the demands presented by its recent spike in popularity.
For example, in 2012, parking was greatly improved with a remote parking lot serviced by a shuttle system. This opened up more acreage for the event itself and made the town of Apogaea much more visually appealing.
Also, eliminating gate sales helped to reduce the number of unprepared last-minute attendees who were drawn to the festival under the misapprehension that they were attending a rave. In previous years, some Apogaea attendees felt that a large influx of new attendees drawn from the electronic dance music and raver communities had caused some dilution in the Burning Man aspect of Apogaea that made Apogaea so special and distinct from other festivals. As a result, in part, of eliminating walk-up gate sales, 2012 was the most dynamic and varied Apogaea yet with a high level of participation and interaction amongst all attendees. The move to the larger site in 2011 also made it possible to create "neighborhoods" within Apogaea and allow large sound camps to exist in areas where their sound did not dominate the entire festival.
In the past, Apogaea had an annual "Miss Apogaea Pagent" which was something of a talent show for freaks by freaks. While the quality of "talent" was often dubious at best, it was a nice event to bring the entire community together. Although the event has lacked such a central rallying event for several years, theme camps have more than filled its vacancy with spectacular performances that draw the community together. In 2012, the town of Apogaea was treated to a wonderful circus of acrobats, jugglers, dancers and fire performers on Friday night while Camp Wardrobe MalFUNKtion put on a stunning PG-rated Burlesque show Saturday night that was hilarious and amazing. Other events were also community-building events such as fire performances hosted by the Fire Convergence.