The Repairman and the Burning Man

Many people associate the festival of Burning Man with the art and the unique individualistic expression it allows. What is necessary to bring this festival to life?  The construction of the desert metropolis and even the Man himself is no small feat.  Bearing this in mind - it is little surprise that to bring the Man and festival to life, a small army of construction vehicles are used to keep everything in place and running. And who keeps this army up and running? I spoke with the machine whisperer who keeps the machines in tip top shape, Rick Rea.

Rick Rea, the equipment whisperer

Rick Rea, the equipment whisperer

Rick has been a key part of the Burning Man festival for quite a few years now.  So what keeps him taking the pilgrimage from Fallon, Nevada to Black Rock City each year? “It’s the people.  Lot of it has to do with the people I work with. They are professional in every way they do their jobs. They are like family,” Rick says.  Though he is mostly a one repairman show, Rick takes pride in the great support system he has available and it’s very obvious the man loves the team he works with. “All the people I work with walk away from their day jobs to help this festival happen, it’s really something special,” Rick says.

Boom lift at Burning Man

Boom lift at Burning Man

When I asked about the construction equipment that gives him the most trouble, he paused for a moment and then replied “has to be the aerial work platforms.” According to Rick most of the equipment is computerized. The fine dust of the dry lake bed is easily disturbed and can lodge itself in any of the computer systems and commonly causes issues. I asked what is the most common advice he gives when the computer system is malfunctioning. He chuckled and responded “I ask the operator ‘have you tried turning it off and back on’?”

The construction vehicle fleet is comprised of a number of aerial work platforms (such as scissor lifts), boom lifts, a backhoe, and some other miscellaneous vehicles. When asked what his favorite or most interesting piece of equipment is, Rick responded “Has to be the boom lifts. We have 135 foot boom lifts used in the construction of the Burning Man and some smaller ones... they’re amazing to watch in action.”

The most interesting thing he notes out there? The art.  “Every art piece has a story behind it and the people who create always have stories to share,” Rick says.  One of the most popular art pieces at the 2015 Burning Man festival “almost didn’t make it.” “It was a piece from the Ukraine and it got held up in customs for so long it made it here just in time.” The sculpture is call “Love” and was created by Alexandr Milov of Odessa, Ukraine.  The powerful piece demonstrates an outer conflict between two humans while internally the two long for peace.  “That’s the best thing about art,” Rick says “It’s a universal language.”

Burning Man holding hands

Burning Man holding hands

Rick is there before the festival begins for prep work and stays long after the last festival participant has gone.  He’s the man behind the curtain keeping the lights on and a genuinely nice guy.  If you need equipment repaired in Nevada or want to learn more about Rick’s repair wizardry visit his facebook page here and give it a like. Alternatively visit his company’s site R&B Mobile.com and show him some love.