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Cirque co-founder Laliberte in Burning Man muck

Updated October 6, 2023 - 9:53 pm

Guy Laliberte’s last aquatic art experience was a real showstopper.

The co-founder of Cirque du Soleil, who helped develop “O” at the Bellagio, has been among those stuck at Burning Man festival this weekend. Tens of thousands of revelers were stranded at the event after a rain storm doused the festival Friday morning.

Some fans (including DJ Diplo and star comic actor Chris Rock) trudged some 6 miles through shin-deep mud to transportation out of the mess.

After a break during the day, rains returned at about 6 p.m. Sunday, further impeding exit routes.

Laliberte, who sold his interest in Cirque in 2015, brought his wild Frooogs Camp EDM installation and experience to Burning Man. He posted Sunday on Instagram his performances from Wednesday at the Playa Party Patrol Music Car, stating, “It was fun having a frooogy party with you on the playa.”

He’s also shown happily riding a large motorized tricycle early in the week, before the storm moved in.

Ex-Cirque “Zumanity” performers Nicky and Laetitia Dewhurst, and banker-turned-circus producer Thomas Brunet are also partners in the Frooogy Camp project. Brandon Pereyda of “Zumanity” and “anti-gravity” artist Alex Schlempp are Frog Camp leads. They, too, have been in the middle of the muck.

Another member of the iconic Dewhurst family, Nikki’s sister Sally Dewhurst and her husband, Stu Scheinman, made it out just as the storm hit the venue at 5 a.m. Friday. Scheinman called the scene “Woodstock ’23,” a term that should stick like the mud caking the festival.

Sally had considered bringing along her 91-year-old father, Brian Dewhurst (who retired from his role in “Mystere” during COVID), but thought better of it.

“He was ready to go,” Sally Dewhurst said on Saturday. The elder Dewhurst did not attend because — this is no joke — his wiener dog, Monster, would not be allowed on the festival ground.

There is a no-dog, including no-wiener dog, policy at Burning Man.

Nicky Dewhurst texted he expected gates to reopen Tuesday, and had not planned to leave until Thursday anyway. Organizers ditched plans to hold its signature Man Burn at 9:30 p.m. Sunday. That event is rescheduled for 9 p.m. Monday.

“That will definitely boost spirits,” Dewhurst said. “Most people are very calm and accepting.”

This was the premiere of Frooog Camp at Burning Man, though the team has attended many Burning Man festivals.

Dewhurst elaborated on his team’s plight.

“As Frooogs, we are perfectly comfortable in the rain. To be more precise, we have a great team who planned for just about everything,” he said. “One thing the Frooogs camp does every year is cover the entire camp with tarp under foot. This usually prevents any spills reaching the Playa (Party Patrol section); however, in this circumstance it has kept our camp almost completely mud free.”

Dewhurst said the team had received 10,000 hot dogs from a DJ party at Play Party Patrol, but had shared with the Burning Man Project, which was helping distribute food to the masses. “We have a plan to open up our tent as a refugee camp for people in need of somewhere dry to rest,” he said.

The “Burner” principal of being “radically self-reliant” has left those on-site in good position to deal with the unexpected crisis. Dewhurst said the sites have power, fuel, water and sewer services “which has turned out to be exactly what’s needed, and as a result we are in a position to help as well as take care of ourselves … Oh, and we brought a boat.”

Nicky texted sporadically on Sunday sending a photo of the Frooog Camp team (well, their legs) around the camp fire. “Current situation after eating eggs Benedict.”

Live Nation President Kurt Melien and Kirvin Doak Communications founder Dave Kirvin were also among those temporarily trapped on the festival grounds. They made it out Sunday afternoon, “Thank God”, as Kirvin said. (To update the original post, Melein was back in town Sunday night, and was on the golf cours Monday morning.)

“The mud makes it almost impossible for cars or RVs to drive, though a few are getting out today,” Kirvin said just after clearing the grounds. “So the way out is to walk about 5 miles through the mud to the entrance, and arrange for a car pick. They also started running busses to Reno today.”

Kirvin also said several RVs and vehicles are stuck in the mud, left abandoned, like a used-car lot from a graphic novel.

Kirvin has been to Burning Man twice. Is he up for a third visit?

“It was an amazing and challenging experience with incredible people,” Kirvin said. “I’ll think about next year next year. For now, I’m just really glad to be going home.”

Cool Hang Alert

Blake Lewis, the runner-up on Season 6 of “American Idol,” plays Easy’s at Aria on Thursday and also Sept. 24. Lewis is a recent Vegas resident, a master of beatboxing who adept at working a crowd. Easy’s is the hidden (aren’t they all?) speakeasy at Proper Eats Food Hall at Aria, open 6 p.m.-2 a.m. daily.

John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. His “PodKats!” podcast can be found at reviewjournal.com/podcasts. Contact him at jkatsilometes@reviewjournal.com. Follow @johnnykats on X, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.

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