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Miami Drummers Celebrate at the Full Moon Party

July 09, 2009 By Carlos Miller in Miami: Things to Do  | 49 Comments

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Above: This guy was irate that I was writing an article because he believed it would cause hundreds of tourists to descend upon their party and ruin it. Not everybody was so unwelcoming.

At least once a month, after the sun sinks into the Everglades, a group of drummers congregate on the beach in a ritualistic serenade to celebrate the arrival of the full moon.

These monthly ceremonies take place on the beach between 79th and 85th streets of Collins Avenue in Miami Beach. But over the years, they’ve taken place at a multitude of locations along the beach, only to be chased out by cops and neighbors.

Even though the current location is fairly removed from residences or businesses,  police still continue to hound them, the drummers say.

But at least they give them the courtesy of waiting until midnight before they break up the party because it is technically illegal to be on the beach after sunset.

So while it doesn’t appear that police are too concerned about these parties, they have made arrests in the past for outstanding warrants and urinating in the bushes, according to a posting on Miami Drums.

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Above: Most drummers were very friendly and inviting as was this guy.

“I think the issue is that you get a lot of underage people who come here to get drunk,” said Daniel Fiorda, 45, as he sat on the beach Tuesday night waiting for July’s full moon to rise from the Atlantic Ocean.

And sure enough, before the night was over, more than 200 people showed up to the drum circle, many of them underage. Many of them drinking alcohol.  Some people were even smoking weed.

But there didn’t appear to be any major drama. By midnight, the cops still had not shown up, so I went home.  The party, however, was still going strong.

Everybody appeared to be having a good time. Well almost everybody.

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One guy in Fiorda’s party took an instant disliking to me when I showed up with my cameras, announcing that I want to write an article about the monthly ritual.

“We don’t want any articles, we don’t want any tourists to come here,” said the man who did not disclose his name.

So much for the welcome carpet.

Mr. Friendly then spent the rest of night flicking me off each time I pointed my camera in his direction.  I didn’t even realize this at first because he was part of a group shot of drummers (bottom photo).  But as I moved in for a closer shot of a few drummers, including him, he displayed his annoyance more prominently (photo at the top of the article).

But one asshole out of 200 people is not bad. You have higher odds than that in the nightclubs.

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Above: Notice the guy in the blue shirt towards the rear flipping me off.

Full moon drum circles are hardly unique to Miami. They take place all up and down the coast of Florida and California. And the granddaddy of them all takes places in Koh Phangan, Thailand where at least 10,000 people show up.

“It’s a celebration of life,” said Fiorda. “It’s a very tribal thing. A celebration of the union of the universe and civilization.”

But like with anything, once something gets popular, it attracts troublemakers (and reporters).

Last year, somebody got stabbed at a full moon circle in San Diego. The following excerpt from the San Diego Union-Tribune reveals that the newcomers haven’t had the same respect for the event as its originators.

“It was a little more docile and friendly in the past,” said San Diego lifeguard Lt. Nick Lerma, “but it’s gotten a little bigger and not getting the same cooperation from some of the people coming now. The result has been a lot of trash, people both urinating and defecating on the beach, illegal fires, drug paraphernalia left behind, glass containers around, the whole deal.

Fiorda, who has been attending these functions for ten years, says the ritual started on 1st Street and Ocean Drive during the early 1990s. But then residents started complaining.
By the time Fiorda started attending the functions, they were held on 22nd Street and Collins Avenue. But then the businesses started complaining.

“It was only a small group of people then, just a few drummers and belly dancers,” he said.

But now those damn kids have ruined everything.

“They leave their trash behind, they have no respect,” said Laura Cobo, who is married to Fiorda. “We would just like to avoid having the kids coming down here with their beer.”

“Everybody is welcome but they just don’t understand the spirit of this.”

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Above: Cleric the Fire Dancer hands out cards that state he is “insured for all occasions”

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Related Categories: Events Miami: Things to Do,

Carlos Miller is a featured writer at Miami Beach 411. He also operates Photography is Not a Crime, a blog about photographer rights, New Media and First Amendment issues.

See more articles by Carlos Miller.

See more articles by Carlos Miller

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49 Comments on

"Miami Drummers Celebrate at the Full Moon Party"

swampthing says:

that guy w the finger is my pal.  drum circles have been here for 20 years plus, free as the moon. the noise complaints are always anonymous thereby as good as phony. technically the public right to the beach has been usurped… presumably for our own good. 
Drums are the vitality of our hearts, the beat is felt in our bones. silence sucks.

Posted on 07/09/2009 at 8:45 AM

Blind Mind says:

Sweet photos, Carlos.  Looks like a good time.

Posted on 07/09/2009 at 9:41 AM

Doug says:

That’s too bad that the drum circle vibe has been lost.  What’s the matter with these kids today?!

Posted on 07/09/2009 at 10:38 AM

daniel fiorda says:

Carlos : thats is why we dislike to have reporters, becouse whats we have to do with ” Last year, somebody got stabbed at a full moon circle in San Diego?
with wich report spirit you post: Some people were even smoking weed ?,
why you dont smoke?
so the thing is a soon a reporter make a note about this, the full moon celebration get packed with expectetor, and no participants.
in any case, we all have to make a living, so there you go, you can go now with the next chek to publix, or may be to a music store and buy your drum.
did you try bellidancing?

Posted on 07/09/2009 at 11:08 AM

Carlos Miller says:

Actually, Daniel, my reference to the weed was satirical. I believe it should be legalized.

Kids will be kids and the kids attending that function were no different than what I did in my high school days when I partied on Hobe Beach in Key Biscayne.

Only we didn’t have the drummers. Just car stereos.

And the San Diego report was relevant because it was along the same line that the drum circles have changed once they become more popular.

My job is report the truth, Daniel.

Posted on 07/09/2009 at 11:26 AM

Maria de los Angeles says:

Hey Carlos, great article! It is extremely naive for anyone who participates in the drum circle to think that no one blogger, reporter or casual observer of life will not attend and spread the word.  I mean, you didn’t go there to judge peoplem right Carlos?

If the drum circle wants it to be so private, then they’d better go to a private beach.  I thought the spirit of this was to be open.  I used to go to the drum circle when I was a kid and yes, there was weed in the air, drinking and people making out in the sand, as well as amazing drummers and performers and a great vibe.  I’m glad to see it’s still going strong, though it’s a shame there’s pollution left behind.

Posted on 07/09/2009 at 12:31 PM

Doug says:

One thing that’s different about the beaches in San Diego is that they stay open all night long.

Posted on 07/09/2009 at 12:41 PM

Tom Jones says:

When I lived in SF they had drumming near the Maritime Museum, and I always felt like the vibe was militant/separatist.

Posted on 07/09/2009 at 12:41 PM

Doug says:

I went to one on Venice Beach in CA once.  It was very peaceful, but the LAPD kept circling around in a squad car—right on the beach!

Posted on 07/09/2009 at 12:46 PM

santa says:

Carlos - Could you comment on the camera flash settings and technique used in the last four images? I do some drag-the-shutter stuff but this has a particularly nice look to it. Deliberate camera movement? Shutter length ? flash settings? Very nice work.

Posted on 07/09/2009 at 1:49 PM

Carlos Miller says:

Hi Santa,

Thanks for the feedback.

I shoot with a Canon 5D, which allows me to increase the ISO to 3200 and not get so much digital noise.

In all these shots, I had the flash reduced by -2 and had it set in second curtain mode, which allows me to capture the trails. I was really going for the movement.

In the first of the four images, I was using a 50 mm f/1.4 lens and I had it on shutter priority set at 1/10 of a second and f/1.6.

In the second of the four photos, I was using my 24-70 f/2.8 lens and I had the camera set on manual.

The attempt here was to capture the moon as well as the drummer, which is kind of hard to do because normally the moon turns out very tiny.

The shutter speed was .5 seconds on this photo and the aperture was f/5.6.

In the third of the four photos, I was using the 50 mm f/1.4 lens and had the camera set at 1/5 of a second.

I had it set at 3200 ISO.

And the fourth photo, I had the 50 mm f/1.4 lens and the camera set at 1/5 of a second and f/1.6.

The ISO was set at 1000 in this one, which is why there is not as much noise as in the other photos.

Basically, I experiment a lot with different settings.

For special effects, sometimes I do all of the above but also twist the zoom lens as I am shooting, which results in something like this.

http://forums.miamibeach411.com/index.php?ACT=35&fid=15&aid=5498_Bz7U5ftr1q1KMpu3tOPg

Posted on 07/09/2009 at 2:18 PM

Carlos Miller says:

“I mean, you didn’t go there to judge people right Carlos? “

No, Maria, my goal was just to experience something in my home town that I thought was pretty cool and to share it through my writing and photography.

I really didn’t expect the attitude I received from that one guy.

And I’m willing to bet he is not even from here. It’s ironic when people move here and then decide nobody else has the right to be here.

Posted on 07/09/2009 at 2:31 PM

enhager says:

There are drum circles every sunday afternoon in Leimert Park Village, a few blocks from my house in LA. The vibe is amazing but they are sometimes wary of outsiders and cameras.

After seeing your amazing shots and reading about the amazing experience - what was your thoughts behind putting the finger flicker first and allowing that to color the rest of the article when you admit it was just the one guy? His image hangs over the whole story.

Posted on 07/09/2009 at 2:43 PM

Carlos Miller says:

Enhager,

Conflict always makes a story compelling. It was either put that photo at the top of the story or talk about this guy in the lede sentence, which I didn’t want to do because that would be giving him too much attention.

But I didn’t want to bury the fact that I did have an issue with somebody either.

I am writing for people who have never been there but might like to check it out.

So it is my responsibility to tell them that not everybody is rolling out the welcome carpet.

And while it might seem like a minor part of the story, his actions did color the entire evening for me.

Posted on 07/09/2009 at 2:55 PM

Gene says:

I resent being referred to as an asshole because I didn’t want your flash going off in my face for the twentieth time that night.  and what I told you is true- your reporting may earn you a paycheck and a pat on the back, but it brings nothing but problems for us, and you were the first of the problems you bought to us.  Thanks for showing us such respect.  Everyone is welcome on the beach, but respect is of the essence.  I didn’t say anything for hours while you snapped away, but when you were in my face, I wanted you to F off.

Posted on 07/10/2009 at 12:59 AM

Carlos Miller says:

Gene,

Respect is a two-way street. And while you might be a nice guy, my impression of you was that of a complete asshole.

But I’m sure the feeling is mutual.

Posted on 07/10/2009 at 1:22 AM

Carlos Miller says:

Gene,

What “problems” did my reporting bring to your group other than revealing that you are an asshole?

Posted on 07/10/2009 at 7:48 AM

a dude says:

Carlos,

Is it necessary to attempt at publicly humiliating this guy? This isn’t journalism. It’s petty.

Don’t you have a blog about police harassing photographers? And isn’t part of the reason why police harass photographers, because they can? Well here you are trying to punish this guy because you can.

If you didn’t have readers, you would only be some ticked off guy. But no: you’ve got a way to escalate it, so you do.

It goes to show that given any power, a person will use it, if they can, to harm another.

Posted on 07/10/2009 at 6:23 PM

Carlos Miller says:

Dude,

The guy knew I was a journalist. He knew I was writing an article. He knew I would post the photos.

So he should have known that if he flips me off when I’m photographing him, there is a strong chance it will get published.

Or maybe he thought I would not post the photo. Maybe he thought he was sabotaging my efforts to write this article.

Maybe he thought the article would never get published because of his valiant efforts to keep the drum circles a secret.

Posted on 07/10/2009 at 7:09 PM

Carlos Miller says:

And I would like to add that my intention that night was to write a purely positive article.

I would have loved for this guy to just be drumming in the photo rather than flipping me off because it would have been a much more natural shot.

But if that is the side he wanted to show to a reporter, that is the side I will show to my readers.

Posted on 07/10/2009 at 7:14 PM

a dude says:

I’m just pointing out that you had a way to make a bigger deal of it, so you did.

Just like the cops did that day with you.

And no one is better off for it.

Posted on 07/11/2009 at 2:52 PM

Carlos Miller says:

Dude,

What the cops did was illegal. What I did was tell the truth.

Posted on 07/11/2009 at 11:35 PM

Gene says:

ahem.. what you did was tell your opinion and only report one side of the story in a kind of distorted way(ie way too much emphasis on my disgruntlement and your opinion).  Another reporter might have asked me why i was upset and told all sides of the story.
You took my sign language way too personally.  I just wanted you too stop aiming your flash gun at me.  I didn’t mean anything personal at you.  Lighten up - life is too short for negativity!

Posted on 07/12/2009 at 2:33 AM

Chrissy says:

I find it amusing that Gene is complaining about the way he is portrayed and is surprised that someone would take it personally —F U is kind of personal.

You pretty much ruined his shots and showed yourself to be an ass. And now you tell the writer to “Lighten up?”
Life is too short for negativity says the guy flipping people off . . .
Irony.

Posted on 07/12/2009 at 10:01 AM

a dude says:

Carlos,

If Gene were a cop and ran you in for disturbing the peace, leaving the court to decide whether it’s legitimate or not, it would be perfectly legal.

You’d call it an abuse of power.

A guy flips you off and you try to use this article to make him pay.

I’m calling it an abuse of power.

Just because the cop’s impact would be greater doesn’t make your act any less malicious. Impotence isn’t innocence.

This shows me that if you had a badge, you probably would have tried to screw him in the best way you could come up with.

Instead, you did your best with a camera.

I really thought you would see that - and maybe have a little insight into why a cop might want to punish someone by strictly (or maybe creatively) enforcing a law.

Lord Acton certainly had it right.

Posted on 07/12/2009 at 12:10 PM

Rick says:

“What the cops did was illegal.”


And here all along I thought you were found guilty.

.

Posted on 07/12/2009 at 4:30 PM

dzent1 says:

Hilarious! Gene doesn’t want you to take his bird in your face personally.

Then I can only assume he meant it for the rest of us, since he continually posed for the camera knowing it would find its way into your article.

I see your bird and raise you two, Gene.

Posted on 07/16/2009 at 11:26 PM

Mark Richards says:

...and one month later we see that Gene was 100% right. I guess the drum circle will have to switch locations again in order to leave the crowd of underage drinkers/users behind (again)

Posted on 08/10/2009 at 4:01 AM

Carlos Miller says:

Mark,

On the bright side, at least the kids are reading this site, something the Miami Herald and most newspapers have been unable to accomplish.

Of course Gene’s actions made this article more popular than it would have been otherwise.

If you want complete privacy from underage drinkers and journalists, I would recommend somebody’s backyard.

Posted on 08/10/2009 at 10:52 AM

Mark Richards says:

don’t need complete privacy from these young people - I was, after all, an underage drinker/user in my time
just don’t like to have drunk/stoned kiddies moshing me or tripping over me while I’m playing

Posted on 08/10/2009 at 12:08 PM

Laurie says:

And the battle between “reporting the news” and respecting people’s space continues…

I have to admit that I had some difficulty posting these events on the Event Calendar because I’d like to share the information with people who would genuinely like to share in the event vs the partiers. I didn’t want to be part of ruining the true spirit of the experience. I mean, let’s be honest, those partiers aren’t just getting out of control because they’re so wrapped up in the experience. They’d be the same way in the club or on the beach with the car stereo. We just told them about a new venue to do it.

Carlos, I think your pics are FANTASTIC but, had I been a spectator on that DARK beach that night, pointed at me or not I think your flash would have gotten on my nerves after a while.

My question is: did MB411 bring some new participants who didn’t know about the Full Moon Drum Circle before and respected the experience? Or did we do more harm than good?

Posted on 08/11/2009 at 7:24 AM

Mark Richards says:

Laurie is right. Your pictures are pretty spectacular. We’ll all be right there at the 79th street beach next month for some more of your fantastic coverage. Tell everyone - 79th street, that’s the place to go. All the drummers will be on 79th street. Don’t forget, 79th street. If you hear that it’s anyplace else, you misheard, it’s 79th street. Somebody post it in the Events Calendar.

Posted on 08/11/2009 at 8:03 AM

Maria de los Angeles says:

Next thing you know, all those crazy bloggers will be out there too, practicing their 1st amendment rights!

Posted on 08/11/2009 at 8:35 AM

debz says:

Well, I am kinda surprised by all of this…I have lived here a year, and caught like twenty mintues of a drum circle, it was amazing.  I have actually truly looked forward to getting to enjoy an entire event one time.  I saw the fire throwers, and people who to me seemed in tune with the earth and themselves.  I thought it was breath-taking.  I think the experience I would of had, would have been different.  I mean there are ways to be a reporter without being invasive, and every situation, just gives everyone an opportunity to be good or to just plain suck.  As far as the teens, they are everywhere…Grew up in Ft Lauderdale and spent many a drunken night on the beach.  My friends father saw a show about it “Miami Beach Drum Circle” and he lives in Michigan…..and he said it was informative yet still cool… I hope it is an earthy ritual that will always be around!!!! Love Peace and Happiness!!!!

Posted on 08/13/2009 at 10:39 AM

Daniela says:

Dear Carlos and Drummers:
I find it very funny that drummers would not appreciate your attendance and taking pictures. I heard about the Drums circle through friends who live on the BEACH. I find it fascinating and I have been invited by locals who are not drummers, but are participants. It is good to spread the word… The moon and the beach belong to all of us anyways, and those who play drums should be flattered to have new spectators joining the circle.
Great article Carlos and amazing pictures!

Posted on 10/02/2009 at 2:18 PM

Mark Diamond says:

Well my 2 cents , I have attended as a drummer and as a photojournalist. With such a fancy camera ( I have a fancy camera too that lets me shoot at 3200) it is actually possible to document these evens without the obnoxiousness of a flash. The cameras are sensitive enough and theres enough city light pollution to get away with it , personaly I use a tripod to assure any fuzzyness is not attrbuteable to my caffiene intake that day. The drumming circle and dancing might seem like a party but there is a sacredness to it although it might escape some people. I have photographed many ceremonial events of many cultures and flash photography techniques no matter how clever or cool looking is basically uncool unwelcome and unneccessary. Gene is friend of mine and I know for a fact that you must have really pissed him off as he is not ordinarilly a finger flasher. LOL

Posted on 10/29/2009 at 2:11 PM

daniel says:

Imagin a gathering/ceremony of photographers in full moon night , they are all together, concentrating about they cameras and setting” Flash or NO flash, that is the question” -focus- and in full attention of their shots and angles, but sudenlly a drummer come by set him/her self in betwen then and start playing laud the drum, walking thru the photographers, making crazys rithm and dancing, breaking the entire spirit of the ceremony.
that will be a really a KODAK Moment.
daniel

Posted on 10/30/2009 at 8:32 AM

Carlos Miller says:

Daniel,

You obviously have no clue about photographers because we live for unpredictable moments.

Posted on 10/30/2009 at 12:13 PM

Doug says:

It is a bit startling to get a finger at a sacred event, even if you do screw up.  Reminds me of the time I got yelled at by a nun for forgetting to take my cap off in the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris.

Posted on 10/30/2009 at 1:42 PM

Julian Campolo says:

Hey, it’s Cleric, the (still-heavily-insured) firedancing troupeleader from the pictures.  I liked the article, it’s a pretty fair representation, and I have some things to add since I’ve been at the mostly-79th St. location for 5 years straight.

1.  People are divided on whether or not they want the drum circle to be bigger or smaller.  I think we who participate in them want a big audience as long as said audience isn’t there simply to get wasted.  I promote it heavily, but I manage to keep the kids off my mailing list.

2.  If there’s a full moon drum circle anywhere in the world, at least 75% of the people in attendance will bring pot or alcohol, or both.

3.  I’ve had many occasions to watch the cops clear us out, with varying levels of courtesy.  They range from respectfully asking us to leave, to methods much more thuggish.  There are ways to not agitate them, I call it the ‘plain sight’ rule.  If they can see a beer/liquor logo on a bottle, it’s a crime.  If it’s a bottletop sticking out of a brown bag, it gives them the option of saying to themselves that it might just as well NOT be liquor and they’ll thankfully ignore you.  In that same spirit, if you’re going to smoke weed, take a minute to feel which way the wind is blowing, and make sure there aren’t police downwind of you.  Nothing smells like pot except POT, and they take the strong smell of it as a sign of personal disrespect.  Dollars to doughnuts says you’re in front of cops that really could care less about marijuana or it’s ridiculous laws, but again, if you put it in their face, it’s like you don’t give a damn about the job they have to do.  Next, pick up your trash when you leave.  ALL of it.  In fact, when you leave, walk directly to the nearest trash can, picking up every piece of errant trash you see between you and the can.  If everybody did this, there wouldn’t be a scrap of trash left.  Sometimes this is the cops’ fault - when they’re aggressive, people jump up and bolt.  When they’re friendly and conversational, people pick up more trash and are generally respectful.  Next, shut up when leaving and approaching the spot, you’re walking along residential homes until you hit sand, and it is all residential from 79th to 76th east of Collins.

4.  Back to #2.  I’m good with whatever you require to get you through your day, but if you think drugs are a necessary part of a drum circle, then you’re not only missing the point of drum circles, you’re missing the point of drugs.  The whole point of going to a drum circle is that you can get a very unique high, as good a high as any other, chemical-free.  Treat a drum circle like a church without all the preachy.

5.  If you don’t want tourists to join us, you’re a fool.  Tourism is the single lifeblood of the Miami Beach economy, and self-preservation, if nothing else, should rule there.  On a more altruistic level, we should feel particularly thankful that our celebrations are so meaningful that people want to experience them, dance in them, drum with us.  Too many in life spend too many of their precious days having their souls semi-willingly sucked dry of purpose or direction.  But if we can celebrate AND entertain others AND give even just one moment of perspective and reflection to any and all who come,  then isn’t that a karmic trifecta?  I’m just sayin…

Posted on 11/09/2009 at 1:37 AM

RA says:

you know way too much focus was put on one negative gesture by one person. compared to the hundreds that were there the drum circle is on an open beach and when you choose that as a venue its hard to police it. shed the hostility, even toward the cops they do what they do, and we do what we do, play until they say leave and come back next month. as we’ve been doing for the past 10 years.Hopefully
the full moon drum circle will attract the diversly talented multicultural local people who drum, dance, breath fire, play the digeridoo,make friends or just sit and vibe to the feeling of mass euphoria.the positive energy of making people happy with music is a natural high.thanks for writing this article and if you do things toward a positive cause I support it.

Posted on 11/23/2009 at 1:35 PM

Flying Red Racoon says:

May the Grandfathers bless the circle.

Posted on 12/31/2009 at 3:55 AM

daniel says:

obnoxiousness of a flash.
obnoxiousness of a flash
obnoxiousness of a flash
obnoxiousness of a flash
obnoxiousness of a flash
obnoxiousness of a flash
obnoxiousness of a flash
happy new year with out flash!

Posted on 12/31/2009 at 9:12 AM

Flying Red Racoon says:

Carlos brings the shadow spirit of “Obnoxiousness” to the circle.  It’s the lightning (without the thunder). Don’t be afraid of Carlos…welcome his shadow, lightning, and spirit.

Posted on 12/31/2009 at 9:21 AM

Barbara says:

Nice write-up, great shots.  Glad to see this scene is still going strong in South Florida. People look like they’re having a really good time. I wrote a feature on drumming circles on Miami Beach for New Times back in ‘93 (link below). Some concerns among participants that they’d get swamped at future events, but that surge only affected next drumming circle. After that, novelty wore off for gawkers, things went back to normal. In the end, a person who’s just observing a drumming circle & not taking part feels awkward.
link: http://www.miaminewtimes.com/1993-09-29/news/things-that-go-thump-in-the-night/

Posted on 07/17/2010 at 7:13 PM

Riderup2 says:

I just moved here from the Ocala area and have been attempting to get in touch with the spiritualist community. What better way to find community than a drum circle to celebrate the full moon. I hope to attend the next circle if I am welcome. After reading some of the posts here I don’t know if I would be. If I am overreacting to some of the negativity that I sense here, please contact me @yahoo.com.

Posted on 07/26/2010 at 7:11 PM

Mark Richards says:

riderup2, start with The First Drum Church of Miami on Facebook & you’ll be able to thread out to all of us

Posted on 07/26/2010 at 8:29 PM

Jose says:

Wow

Posted on 11/18/2010 at 11:25 AM

Charlie says:

There are signs on the beach entrances prohibiting any fire on the beach at any time. I’ve heard that the fire performers have been banned before, due to this city ordinance. I’ve also heard rumors about one of the fire spinners been snitching against the drummers whom have trying to organize this event avoiding this issue. Many been arrested and some got into serious problems, not for been on the beach, but for been in probation. So, one guy above is only selling his side-show, promoting his business using this great drum circle as decoy, but jeopardizing everything to fulfill his ego and greed.

Posted on 09/06/2011 at 3:24 PM

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