After about a month’s worth of rain poured on Black Rock City, Nevada, earlier this month, tens of thousands of Burning Man campers were called to shelter in place. 

“No one planned for that,” said Duane Peterson, a longtime Vermonter and Burning Man veteran of 17 years. 

Peterson was one of the founders of Vermont solar provider Suncommon. He got introduced to Burning Man, the event that brings over 70,000 people to the Nevada desert every year, 17 years ago when he was working for Ben Cohen of Ben and Jerry’s. Fresh off yet another trip back from Nevada, he said the experience was one of a kind. 

“It is a really impressive explosion of artistic creativity, and MacGyver get-’er-done out in the middle of nowhere,” he said. 

Peterson’s camp in the temporary city has been coined ‘Duane’s Whirld’ for years and hosts about 45 others. For the first five days of his experience in 2023, he said everything went to plan. His crew had a blast working and partying on the extravagant art car they and other Vermont artists came together to construct. They call it ‘Fluffy’, and it helped campers get around the city. 

“A bunch of artists in Burlington and I came together and dreamt up the image of it,” Peterson said. “People really enjoyed it; it was different from other art cars and was distinctive, so people appreciated that.” 

On September 1, rain changed both the art car’s purpose and the campers’ experience. 

“It kept raining…we were literally sheltering in place, so our camp, we were a bit of an oasis in our neighborhood,” Peterson said. “On the second night it occurred to us, and we fired it up as a neighborhood party and gathering, we took in strays and people who were stranded.” 

As his world became a place for others to come, the crew made the most of Fluffy. 

“It got repurposed into a sudden shelter and repurposed into a stationary party platform,” Peterson said. 

With the new experiences, Peterson and his crew are already looking forward to 2024, and they say they could utilize Fluffy at events in Vermont in the coming year.