Playa del Fuego began on Assataegue Island in August of 1998. It has been held continuously since then. It has grown from about 20 people on the beach with an inflatable Godzilla and a 5 foot tall flammable man to a 1,200+ person event with a huge array of art.
For a complete history, please visit this site, Playa del Fuego Burn History. The following copy is an excerpt from that site.
August 1st, 1998, our first east coast beach burn.
After a 4 hour drive through the wonderful state of Delaware's ongoing repavement marathon I finally arrived at Assateague Island. Along the way to the beach area I saw people feeding and petting the famous ponies... a few hundred yards beyond signs telling them not to do so! These people would make great Darwin award fodder with some Yellowstone grizzly.
"Area 1" (not 51 ;-) turned out to be harder to find than expected. There were at least three 'areas' labeled "1". After asking a ranger I was directed to the right place. It looked like just another beach full of day tripping families, but then I saw the tiki's and an inflatable Godzilla, I had arrived.
It was great to finally put faces on the baltwash email addresses. We ended up with about 20 participants. Much fun was had with grilling (despite the constant wind), glow sticks and bonfire. We even had a 5' "man" in addition to two boxes of National Geographic 'logs' (sorry, no Wired's). I had my Virtual Beret on my head most of the evening.
Our "man" was looking and pointing west towards Gerlach. We lit him up with glow necklaces. Not as bright as neon, but adequate. When it came time to burn him, the wind kept knocking him over. We eventually guyed him down while Kathleen sprayed him with lighter fluid. He would burn and then get blown out! Finally we dropped him into the bonfire and he was done until fall.
And a final note of cosmic karma... The couple next to our site was breaking open glow sticks and doping up kites and string for a rather impressive show. It turns out the guy was thinking about going to Burning Man! And we were set up right next to them!