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Light it Up at Burning Bush

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Light It Up at Burning Bush
By Paul Lang

Photo Scott Semon

Imagine parking your car at night off the side of the road in the middle of the Baja California desert and then walking up a dirt road past huge Saguaro Cactus because you heard there might be a party out there somewhere. There had been no official announcement, no website to check, and most definitely no phone number to call for more information. With your mind full of doubt that anything is actually happening out here, you come over a small hill and find a few hundred people gathered around various contraptions that are either on fire or about to be lit up. On the hill above the crowd is a giant flame thrower shooting spinning flames a hundred feet into the air. This is Burning Bush, the smaller Baja version of Burning Man and many of the people in the crowd are kiteboarders.

Photo Scott Semon

Ever since the first party in 2004, Burning Bush has been held near La Ventana on the second Saturday of January every year. “I’m kind of a pyro. I love making fires,” admitted Bruce Sheldon Spradley, founder of Burning Bush and a kiteboarding pioneer. Bruce also operates Sheldon Kiteboarding (http://sheldonkiteboarding.com), which is based out of Rio Vista in the summer and La Ventana in the winter.“In Todos Santos back in 1985, we torched a 70’ long pile of driftwood. This was back when there was no one else around. It was pretty stupid, but we did it anyway,” said Bruce. Now more than 25 years after that first informal burn, Burning Bush has grown into a highly anticipated event and until recently, the only way to find out about it was through word of mouth. “This started as a beach party for friends; it was just a joke. People loved it so much that they wanted us to do it again. Now we have 40 to 50 volunteers and we just pour it on,” said Bruce.

2010 Burning Bush from jimstringfellow on Vimeo.

With the amount of flame shooting around, it can look like a pyromaniac’s heaven, but Bruce does set limits about what happens at Burning Bush. “We were going to make bombs by filling up trash bags with acetylene and oxygen and throwing them into the fire, but when I almost blew myself up testing out the idea I decided we wouldn’t allow those,” said Bruce. The fire cannons at Burning Bush were actually inspired by 17th century physicist Sir Isaac Newton’s design for an air-powered cannon. “First we pressurized it with a bike pump and blew water out of the barrel. That evolved into filling it full of propane, and we then filled the barrel full of gasoline, but we don’t do that at the party; it’s just too insane.”

Photo Scott Semon

At every past Burning Bush, the art that has been displayed and then burnt down was built by Bruce and his friends using mostly scrounged materials. “We’re always trying to dream up things we can build. We head to the dump to see what we can find. One year we cleared a blown down palapa out of someone’s yard and used the material from that.” Bruce is hoping that the event evolves into one where the people attending also bring their own artwork. “I hope someday that the people who come to Burning Bush build and bring their own artwork, but the idea is to not be too attached to it. By the end of the night, it gets lit on fire.”

Photo Paul Lang

Burning Bush has a theme every year, with past themes including Flower Power, 007, Fish, and Bush Goes to Mars. The theme for the upcoming 2011 Burning Bush, to be held on Saturday, January 15, 2011, is still being kept secret, and the exact location is still unannounced. For more information about Burning Bush, a website was just launched at http://www.sheldonkiteboarding.com/bajaburningbush. All the better reason to get down to La Ventana early for the 2011 La Ventana Classic and Kite Expo, to be held January 21-24 with special early clinics happening January 16-20. See you there! If you can’t make it to La Ventana, make sure you pay attention to http://thekiteboarder.com for our live coverage, which will include Burning Bush!

For Jim Stringfellow’s video of the 2010 Burning Bush, visit http://vimeo.com/9038804 or http://www.jimstringfellow.com

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