"The entire thing is volunteer-run and a gift to people in the community," says Persep Sion, one of the organizers of Youtopia, set for October 17–21.
She says the gathering is based on the ten principles of Burning Man, the big annual event held in Nevada's Black Rock Desert.
"No one gets paid and everyone buys a ticket," Sion says. "All the money goes back into the infrastructure of the event and the community." According to Sion, nearly all the tickets have already been sold. She estimates that about 2600 people from all over the country will converge at the La Jolla Band of Luiseño Indians Campground at the foot of Palomar Mountain.
"These are transformational gatherings, we share completely free artistic expression," Persep Sion says. "We have an opportunity to utilize the other 90 percent of our brains instead of focusing on how we get the most out of the 10 percent we're used to using."
This year, for the first time, organizers found a way to provide electricity for the entire site and event, using money left over from last year; that means bigger and better art and music at a place where light and laser installations abound.
"We have no access to the outside world. It's immersive. We don't want the intrusion," she explained. "You have this chance to build community and really expand your expression — we are just figuring things out together."
More than 100 art camps and dozens of installations are expected. A “transportation committee” has worked hard to get people to share rides and carpool from as far away as Vancouver and as near as Ventura. Volunteers act as “rangers” — community monitors who were trained Burning Man–style to deal with tensions that may arise among people.
Persep Sion, whose street name is Kristen Jen, says she has spent most of this year coordinating the many volunteers, artists, and participants to make the third-annual event happen.
"I know how the infrastructure works, but I don't know what will happen," she says. "I've spent six month throwing a surprise party for myself."