Playa del Fuego

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Playa del Fuego
Begins May
Ends October
Frequency Bi-annually
Location(s) Odessa/Townsend, Delaware, United States
Inaugurated August 1998
Most recent May 26-30 2016
Participants ≈ 1400

Playa del Fuego, also known as "PDF" by its participants, is a regional event inspired by the annual Burning Man festival in Nevada. The event is held in Delaware twice a year, with the spring event being held over Memorial Day and the fall event being held over Columbus Day weekend. Most of the planners and participants come from the Baltimore-Washington, D.C. metropolitan area and surrounding states including Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey; though more than a few come from as far away as New England.

Playa del Fuego is a camping event that celebrates art for art's sake and espouses a gift economy where no vending, sales or barter are permitted.[1] Visual and performance artists from all over the mid-atlantic region and the East Coast create a temporary community for the weekend. Participants share a wide range of talents from sculpting, painting, music, theatre, and DJing, to alternative forms of expression such as games, performance art, and circus talents such as juggling and fire spinning.

The event adheres to the ten principles of the Burning Man event in Nevada. Among these are the LNT (Leave No Trace) philosophy, an environmental policy whereby participants are obligated to remove every piece of refuse that they generate while at the event, taking it with them when they leave.[2] The themes of radical self-expression and radical self-reliance are also borrowed from Burning Man. In addition, the event is considered a "no spectators" event, meaning that all attendees are expected to actively participate in its creation, staffing, and general philosophy.

According to the official website, it is "a celebration of the spirit of radical self-expression, community, and participation". The event is planned and run completely by volunteers. The volunteer areas include: the PDF Rangers, Medical Crew (MASH), Gate Crew, DPW/Moop, Participation Station, Stage (DJs), Lamp Lighters, and Sound Patrol.

Gates open for Playa del Fuego late Thursday afternoon of the event weekend. Playa del Fuego culminates with a bonfire on Saturday night; however, instead of a human effigy as at Burning Man, a wooden pony is burned in honor of the event's origins on Assateague Island in Maryland.[3] A Fire Conclave and Drum Circle directly precede the main burn. In recent festivals, a secondary burn has taken place the following night, during which other works of "burnable art" are burned. The event ends on Monday at noon.


PDF began with a small group in 1998 on a beach at Assateague Island. Eventually, the event grew too large for that location and moved to private property in the Odessa/Townsend area of Delaware to accommodate the hundreds of participants who were attending the event.

Timeline of the Assateague Beach Burn[edit]

The Assateague Beach Burn was the progenitor event of Playa Del Fuego.

Season/Year Dates of Event Location Participants Description of Effigy Historical Notes
i Summer 1998 8/1 to 8/2/1998 Assateague Island ~20 The first effigy was a "Burning Man," facing and pointing west toward the Black Rock Playa. First ever Assateague Beach Burn.
ii Fall 1998 10/24 to 10/25/1998 Assateague Island ~30 Burning Woman effigy with square breasts. Artists: Glenn and Ursula.
iii Spring 1999 5/22 to 5/23/1999 Assateague Island ~30 Burning Man effigy; medium: cardboard. Artist: Lizard. Burning Man effigy; medium: popsicle sticks, scrap wood. Artist: Andy Wing.
iv Summer 1999 7/24 to 7/25/1999 Assateague Island n/a Burning Man effigy supported by tripod; medium: solid wood blocks.
v Fall 1999 10/23 to 10/24/1999 Assateague Island ~60 Burning Man effigy, arms raised. Artist: Kevin.

Timeline of Playa Del Fuego (since 2000)[edit]

Season/ Year Dates of Event Location Ticket Price Participants Registered Theme Camps Description of Effigy Historical Notes
I Spring 2000 5/11 to 5/13/2000 Assateague Island No tickets 70+ n/a Burning Man effigy, arms raised, fire shooting from each hand. Artist: Kevin. Also 5 popsicle stick men. Artist: Andy Wing. Regarded as the first "Playa Del Fuego" by event historian Andy Wing because this was the first time that the Assateague Beach Burn was extended to a 3-day event.
II Summer 2000 8/4 to 8/6/2000 Assateague Island No tickets n/a n/a Unknown
III Fall 2000 10/13 to 10/15/2000 Assateague Island No tickets n/a n/a Burning Man effigy.
IV Spring 2001 4/27 to 4/29/2001 Assateague Island No tickets 150+ n/a "Leaning Man" effigy, 20 ft tall. Artist: Fred. Also 5 popsicle stick men, each 6 ft tall. Artist: Andy Wing. Last Playa Del Fuego held on the beach at Assateague Island.
V Fall 2001 10/19 to 10/21/2001 Odessa, DE Unknown 230+ n/a First time that a "Burning Pony" was placed atop the ceremonial bonfire in honor of the event's historical roots on Assateague Island. First time Playa Del Fuego held in Odessa, DE. First time tickets are sold and event is insured.
VI Spring 2002 5/24 to 5/27/2002 Odessa, DE Unknown 382 n/a n/a
VII Fall 2002 10/11 to 10/14/2002 Odessa, DE Unknown n/a n/a n/a
VIII Spring 2003 5/23 to 5/26/03 Odessa, DE Unknown n/a n/a n/a This was the legendary "Mud Burn."
IX Fall 2003 10/10 to 10/13/03 Odessa, DE Unknown n/a n/a n/a
X Spring 2004 5/28 to 5/31/2004 Odessa, DE Unknown n/a (sold out) n/a n/a First time tickets were sold out.
XI Fall 2004 10/8 to 10/11/2004 Odessa, DE Unknown n/a n/a n/a
XII Spring 2005 5/27 to 5/30/2005 Odessa, DE Unknown 625 (sold out) n/a n/a
XIII Fall 2005 10/7 to 10/10/2005 Odessa, DE Unknown n/a n/a n/a
XIV Spring 2006 5/25 to 5/29/2006 Odessa, DE Unknown 800+ n/a n/a First time event was extended from 4 to 5 days (beginning on Thursday).

pyramid of exotic hardwood (aka pyramid of porn) burned on Friday

XV Fall 2006 10/5 to 10/9/2006 Odessa, DE $35 ~800 n/a Sculpture of horse bucking back, lit with giant zippo light and fuse. major pyrotechnics. mounted on shipping container with the 3 wise monkeys made of steel, revealed as it burnt down. artist monk e burnswell; medium: natural wood and plywood. Rain and mud Friday and Saturday, beautiful sunshine Sunday.
XVI Spring 2007 5/24 to 5/28/2007 Odessa, DE $35 800 (sold out) n/a Pegasus taking flight; medium: natural wood and wicker. Burn took place during a fantastic night time electrical storm which surrounded the playa with lightning strikes. fall of the house of burner burned on Saturday night with a fire so bright you could "see it from space"
XVII Fall 2007 10/4 to 10/8/2007 Odessa, DE $35 800 (sold out) n/a 7 pony head totem minor pyrotechnics also lit with single match; medium: natural wood, plywood and paper mache'. artist monk e burnswell
XVIII Spring 2008 5/22 to 5/26/2008 Odessa, DE $35 1000 (sold out) n/a Silhouette cut-out of a horse head; medium: plywood. Ticket cap increased by 25%, and still sold out. First Totem Burn on Sunday night.
XIX Fall 2008 10/9 to 10/13/2008 Odessa, DE $35 1000 (sold out) n/a Seahorse; medium: natural wood and driftwood; minor pyrotechnics.
XX Spring 2009 5/21 to 5/25/2009 Odessa, DE $35 1000 (sold out) n/a Silhouette cut-out of a horse rearing up; medium: painted plywood and wood scales. Second Totem Burn on Sunday night.
XXI Fall 2009 10/8 to 10/12/2009 Odessa, DE $35 1000 (sold out) n/a Huge rocking horse (multicolored); fully interactive prior to burn; medium: painted wood; pyrotechnics. Artists: Amira and The Wineman.
XXII Spring 2010 5/27 to 5/31/2010 Odessa, DE $50 1275 (sold out) n/a Exterior: My Little Pony (pink); Interior: Skeletal demon dark horse (black); medium: painted wood effigy and pedestal; ignited by flaming arrows; pyrotechnics. Artist: The Connecticut Oakburners Ticket cap increased by 27.5%, and still sold out. Ticket price increased nearly 43% to help create a fund for future purchase of land. New ticket purchasing system used. First year that the back gate was staffed for entire event.
XXIII Fall 2010 10/7 to 10/11/2010 Odessa, DE $50 1275 (sold out) n/a Large Pegasus with Movable wings created by Barrel of Fun TBD
XXIV Spring 2011 5/26 to 5/30/2011 Odessa, DE $50 1275 (sold out) 40 Two story "pony tower" with a pony on both the first and second stories; artist Gordon B. McCracken medium: thick beam construction for tower, plywood ponies. Tallest effigy in PDF history.
XXV Fall 2011 10/6 to 10/10/2011 Odessa, DE $50 1275 (sold out) 42 Rocking Pony by Fogie Camp. Muddiest site conditions since Spring 2003. For the first time, a temple was built for the festival and burned on Sunday evening.
XXVI Spring 2012 5/24 to 5/28/2012 Odessa, DE $50 1275 (sold out) 21+ Kissing ponies; two wicker ponies, rearing up on hind legs and nuzzling noses. New sound policy enforced. Beautiful secondary burn on Sunday night.
XXVII Fall 2012 10/4 to 10/8/2012 Odessa, DE $50 1275 (sold out) 40 "Single Carousel Horse on a Pole" by Reginald Conyard Jr. Painted carousel horse with zebra stripes; layered plywood with a weighted rope an pulley system; pony shifted into 3 different poses as specific ropes burned. Fairly muddy conditions.
XXVIII Spring 2013 5/23 to 5/27/2012 Odessa, DE $50 1275 (sold out) 40 Built by Camp Buffalo, an interactive pony with a slide that allowed participants to be "reborn a buffalo." Rainy, windy, and muddy.
XXIX Fall 2013 10/10 to 10/14/2013 Odessa, DE $50 1275 (sold out) 57 Multiple tiers with a central platform with a pony statue. Rainy, muddy, and windy.
XXX Spring 2014 5/22 to 5/26/2014 Odessa, DE $50 ~1375 (sold out)  ?? Pallet pile with wire-wrap pony sculpture hidden inside. Muddy Thursday. Sunny, warm and dry for the rest.
XXXI Fall 2014 10/10 to 10/13/2014 Odessa, DE $50 ~1400 (sold out)  ?? Wooden Pegasus with flapping connected to a pulley system.  ??

Event size and ticketing[edit]

As of spring 2010, the ticket cap was raised to 1,275. Tickets offered for sale on the PDF website generally sell out quickly. The primary factor which prevents the ticket cap from being increased to meet demand is the number of volunteers available to staff various aspects of the event. Over the years, as the volume of volunteers (people x shifts covered) has increased, the ticket cap was increased. Other factors taken into account when raising the ticket cap are the availability of space for parking and the impact of noise on surrounding residents.

Tickets cost $50 USD each (though a few hardship ticket scholarships are available by application), and are sold in two releases, with about half the event tickets sold in the first release, and the remaining half sold in the second release. Tickets sales for the spring PDF usually begin mid-March on the event website, and ticket sales for the fall PDF usually begin in mid-August.


Several themes and/or ethics are encouraged during the event, based on the ten principles of Burning Man.[4] These include:

  • Leave No Trace (or LNT) - everyone at the event is asked to clean up after themselves so that when the event is done, the campground's state has not deteriorated.
  • Gift Economy - no sale or barter is allowed at the event. Participants are asked to bring what they can and gift as they are able.
  • Radical Inclusion - everyone is welcome to be a part of the event.
  • Radical Self-Reliance - do what needs to be done and do not be a burden to others.
  • Radical Self-Expression - be yourself, however you wish. Allow others to do the same.
  • Communal Effort - work together to make the best possible.
  • Civic Responsibility - every citizen bears a responsibility to contribute to the community as a whole.
  • Participation - no one attending is an observer; no spectators.
  • Immediacy - participants are to become part of the event and explore their inner selves in relation to the event and surroundings
  • Decommodification - rejection of corporate advertising, branding and sales of any kind.

See also[edit]


External links[edit]

Coordinates: 39°23′11″N 75°34′17″W / 39.38634°N 75.57151°W / 39.38634; -75.57151