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Grantsville • It's about creativity and community. Oh, yeah, and there may be a party with big fires.

Utah's answer to Burning Man — the annual Labor Day self-expression festival in Nevada's Black Rock Desert — is called Element 11, and it's drawing hundreds this weekend outside Grantsville.

The annual bash is based on the same 10 principles that guide Burning Man. The high point of the festival occurs Saturday night with the torching of a 30-foot effigy designed as a Buddha sitting atop a giant double helix.

"Ascension" is the theme, organizers say. And burning the effigy is symbolic of setting personal spirits free.

"It's a lot more than a rave in the desert," said a man with a purple beard who called himself Heyu. "It's about community. It's about being in the zone with people who think like you do."

A big part of the festival is the emphasis on art, explained Micky Baker.

"This is a great incubator for art," he said. "We're creating a party and an event. The music and programs are what people want to bring to it. It's an invitation."

Element 11 is an official regional Burning Man event, said Del Hargis, aka Deli Lama, one of its organizers. And like Burning Man, it emphasizes "radical self-expression" and "radical self-reliance," as well as "gifting" and "radical inclusion."

"There is an acceptance and freedom here," he said. "It's literally breathtaking."

In keeping with that spirit, participants dress in a variety of colorful and unique ways — a fellow in a Mad Hatter's Hat, a bare-chested dude in a kilt, women in vibrant sarongs or tiny bikinis with cowboy boots. It's all part of "stretching the envelope of their personal awareness," according to Hargis. There might even be some nudity, which according to organizers is perfectly OK for the age-19-and-over gathering.

Mood-altering substances sometimes come with creative territory but organizers want participants on their best behavior, as reflected in Element 11's "Guidelines for Erotic Discourse." For example, No. 4 says: "Do not have sex with an intoxicated or stoned person. Not only is it technically against the law, but it is potentially very hurtful to that person. And what fun is that?"

This year Element 11 organizers, who just formed a nonprofit 501(c)3 corporation, expect 1,200 participants, their biggest showing in the gathering's 12-year history. New limits on the numbers of people at Nevada's Burning Man have resulted in more participation at regional events, such as Element 11.

More participants mean more organization, including first responders.

"I'm here to protect chaos from order," said a smiling Krista Bowers, who carries the handle "Ranger Tempest" during the festival.

She volunteers on Element 11's ranger team, which acts as the first line of mitigation during emergencies or fights.

"Community is a big part of it for me," Bowers said. "It's relaxing and energizing all at the same time."

There are dozens of volunteers at this year's event. But Hargis concedes "not everyone gets it," including some of the participants who come only for the party.

"It's a community-based festival. For it to work, everybody has to participate and nobody gets paid," he said. "That's the message we have to get out to the rest of the world. You're either giving or you're taking."

The $150 entry fee covers costs, Hargis said, but the fest does not make a profit.

There is more than one large fire planned this weekend, and festival organizers are working with the fire marshal and will not burn under windy conditions.

A mock Viking ship was scheduled to be burned Friday night.

But participants have taken such a liking to it that it was unclear in the afternoon whether they would actually set it ablaze.

Also scheduled for the torch Saturday at 5 a.m. is a temple built of wood.

"Our temple is a space where you can come for a release," Hargis said. "It's not about the building. It's about creating space. It's a space where you can be anything and not fear being hurt. What I care about is giving my human family the opportunity to love." —

Tickets are necessary

O Tickets are $150. For information,