California's Symbiosis Gathering has something going for it that few festivals do: a body of water. This year's installment transpires at the 2900-acre Woodward Reservoir just north of Oakdale. Whereas Burning Man has art cars, Symbiosis has art boats. And mermaids. Mermaids who perform mermaid burlesque or “mer'lesque,” regale the children of Symbiosis with ocean stories and even swim in the reservoir. Mike Gaines, ringmaster for San Francisco's Vau de Vire Society, is the man who contracts the scaly beauties.
Gaines spent a stint in Fort Collins once. “I moved to Fort Collins from Southern California, where I'd grown up. I was on my way to medical school but needed to live in Colorado for a year to qualify for in-state tuition. In that time, I started working in film, and became addicted to the art and process of live production. Then I found an old church and decided to forego med school and look into opening an school for film and dance.”