As a celebration of radical self-expression, the Burning Man Festival is distinct from any other cultural event you’ve attended. This is an annual event of liberty and art, with multitudes of participants coming from Croatia, Armenia, Moldova, Ukraine, Georgia, and Azerbaijan, each with its own expectations and goals.
Burning Man is not simply a cultural event. Everyone can enjoy a one-of-a-kind encounter here and try out for any role, particularly his or her own. We’ve compiled a list of the most interesting facts about Burning Man that will alter your impression of the celebration culture as a whole.
What is the Burning Man Festival?
The Burning Man Festival is considered one of the most well-known activities on the planet, taking place once per year in Black Rock City, Nevada, USA. Each year, tens of thousands of individuals gather to commemorate the art and creative thinking over the course of eight days in both August and September in the glory of Labor Day. The celebrations conclude with a massive bonfire in which a massive fluffy puppet is burned down, thus the name “burning man.”
Each Burning Man festival has a distinct theme, which is announced well in advance, and almost all facets of the festival portray that theme. For instance, in 2000, the theme was “The Body,” and streets in the town were given proper names like “Head Way” and “Feet Street.” The city’s numerous encampments and villages are organized around the relevant subthemes and could also be organized around specific foods, sporting events, learning specialisms, or the arts.
The History of the Burning Man Festival
In celebration of the summer solstice, Larry Harvey & Jerry James, two members of the San Francisco arts community, burned an eight-foot- (two-meter-) high wooden effigy of a guy on San Francisco’s Baker Beach in 1986. This same event was witnessed by 20 people.
Over the following four years, Harvey and James (along with ever-increasing crowds) decided to return to the location with ever-taller effigies. When a 40-foot (12-meter) tall effigy was ready for immolation at the beach location in 1990, regrettably, the police decided to intervene at the last moment and forbade the framework from being set alight.
Over the following two decades, the Burning Man festival grew exponentially. Its timeframe was extended to include the whole week prior to Labour Day, with the effigy being lit on the Saturday before the holiday.
Meanwhile, participation skyrocketed, surpassing 50,000 by 2010. To cater to all of the participants, a temporary city with titled streets, townships, and encampments was constructed in the desert each year. Nevertheless, after the festival, the city was totally destroyed in accordance with the festival organizers’ “leave no trace” policy.
As a result, the event was relocated to the Black Rock Desert that year, where the effigy was burned on the subsequent weekend in early September. The carnival was never brought back to San Francisco or even the solstice after it was relocated; instead, it made the desert its permanent location.
The Burning Man Festival and its rules
Black Rock City is the name of this improvised city that appears and vanishes in a matter of days. It’s all plausible as long as you adhere to the rules of the community. The rules are strict, including the following:
- The possession of money is prohibited.
- The sole form of interaction is barter or donation.
- You must be self-sufficient and bring food, water, and sometimes even electricity with you.
- Except for those selling ice and coffee, there are no shops.
- Another really stringent rule of this carnival is civic and environmental responsibility. Participants receive a handbook that outlines the ethical and moral considerations that must be adhered to during the celebration.
The event is always held in the form of a huge semi-circle, symbolizing the celebration of art forms and self-expression by providing a place for small creative installations, theater performances, music events, yoga classes, expositions, music, and DJ sets. The theme changes each time and is revealed on The Burning Man Festival website in advance.
The Burning Man Festival and its guests
This massive festival has grown in popularity over recent years, trying to attract interesting people from all over the world, including valuable guests who frequently show up by private jet, remain in luxury campers, and even employ a wait staff.
To meet the demands of this growing VIP list, entire zones have indeed been shuttered off, making tiny “high-end neighborhoods” devoted solely to the very wealthy campers. While it is true that anyone can attend, it is also important to note that tickets in 2017 cost $575 per person.
Numerous celebrities, including Susan Sarandon, Katy Perry, Paris Hilton, and Cara Delevingne, as well as tech VIPs like Mark Zuckerberg and Jeff Bezos, attended this event, which is held annually.
Black Rock City draws people from all social classes because it is based on universal principles and rules that apply to everyone: old and young, rich and poor. Many see inconsistencies in this expedition, but the festival’s spirit is anarchy in the face of strict rules. When it’s all said and done, visitors leave no trace.
Black Rock City Census
Each year, volunteers assist in the collection and analysis of the results of the survey from festival attendees in order to compile the Black Rock City Census. The information is gathered in two stages: one is a survey distributed at irregular intervals to participants joining Black Rock City, and the other is an online questionnaire on the website, distributed to all participants after the festival. The online survey was completed by over 9,000 burners in 2017.
Since 2005, the census has been undertaken on a consistent basis, and in 2012, the team implemented a new method to ensure that outcomes can be compared year to year. Most of the burners in 2017 were white or Caucasian, as in past years, and there was a slight rise in the percentage of Hispanics or Latinos, as well as Asians, participating in Burning Man since 2013. Only 1% of the burners were black. The lack of racial diversity at Burning Man has been a subject of much debate recently.
In 2017, well almost 80% of participants came from the United States, and almost 50% of burners were aged 25 to 34.
Currently, there has been enhanced conversation about the lavish spending of the tech elite & celebrities in order to prepare for Burning Man, in addition to official events by prominent entrepreneurs that try to replicate the Burning Man Festival aesthetic. In 2017, over 75% of participants spent more than $1,000 (excluding ticket costs) to participate, and far more than 50% had a family income of less than $100,000.
How much does it cost to go to the Burning Man Festival?
Although you won’t have to spend anything once you arrive, Burning Man is far from free—or cheap.
Based on the event’s official website, the vast bulk of tickets was sold for $425 in 2018, and then you’ll also need to purchase an $80 vehicle pass for every car you drive in. Approximately 5,000 pre-sale tickets were also made accessible at the end of each January, with prices ranging from $990 to $1,200.
According to CNBC, the total cost could range from $1,300 to $20,000 in 2016, which includes travel, meals, tent fees, outfits, and gifts.
What to bring to the Burning Man Festival?
Participants at Burning Man bring all they need — and afterward, pack it all back up. The only items available for purchase are coffee and ice.
That implies attendees should prepare their own shelter, meals, water, sunscreen, and any other items they desire or require. The website recommends that attendees bring a two-wheeler for transportation as well as “toys or outfits with which you can articulate your creative spirit.”
The Burning Man Festival Regional Network
The Burning Man Regional Network is made up of groups of people from all over the world who wish to remain connected to their heritage and precepts throughout the year.
In addition to its international integration, the initial gathering may be growing in size. The Bureau of Land Management, which supervises the territory where Burning Man takes place, is presently looking for a new 10-year permit for the event.
The legislation’s environmental impact report will look at a population of 80,000 to 100,000 people to evaluate the impacts on the surrounding areas over the coming ten years. There are currently no plans to grow the number of attendees, but the effects are being carefully assessed.
The art of Burning Man has spread beyond the Black Rock Desert. In Washington, art and historical records from Burning Man are being displayed in the Smithsonian’s Renwick Gallery this year.
The display is called “No Spectators,” a deep playa phrase that implies active participation by everyone in Black Rock City. No individual is an audience member, but rather a participant in the experience.
Danger Ranger is the Director of Genetic Programming at Burning Man. A few assert that he possesses near-supernatural abilities, such as the potential to bi-locate as well as seem to be in two places at the same time.
He established the Black Rock Rangers in 1992. He also formed the first Burning Man mailing list/database, published the first issue of the Black Rock Gazette, and decided to drive the first art car to the Black Rock Desert. Michael serves as the Cacophony Society’s guiding light in San Francisco. His Silicon Valley career started just a few years before intel with Fairchild Semiconductor.
The Burning Man Festival and COVID-19
Burning Man organizing committee revealed in April that the festival would be canceled for the second year due to the Covid pandemic.
Just after the festival was canceled, unauthorized Burning Man events took place in the summer of 2020. Despite the fact that organizers planned a virtual Burning Man festival, approximately 5,000 people nevertheless flocked to the Nevada desert.
Back in San Francisco, the original birthplace of Burning Man in the 1980s, more than 1,000 people gathered on Oceanside to commemorate the event, spurring uproar from the mayor, who termed the gathering “reckless and selfish.”
Top 10 Burning Man Festival Facts
- Burning Man is most likely the only location on the planet that has achieved success in separating itself from business and material possessions. Money on the Playa is nothing more than paper. Food, water, clothing, and other necessities are not available here. But then you can change things about yourself to make it more interesting. As per Larry Harvey, one of the festival’s founders, Burn is a household picnic where the “buy/sell” principle does not apply. Brands are not permitted to advertise at the festival.
- A society based on gifts: Folks give more than they receive here. Nobody cares about money, but everybody wants to share a part of their lives with Burning Man. Individuals here believe that the more you give, the more you will receive.
- The festival, in the end, leaves us with nothing. It’s hard to believe, but a massive town with a large number of camps and facilities vanishes after an eight-day whirlwind. You come to the desert, spend your brief time there, and then end up leaving, releasing everything in its original state. Participants draw a comparison between both the festival as well as the life cycle.
- The collective art concept has demonstrated that collective creativity tends to reflect each participant’s individual creativity and acts as an increment in a collaborative project. Collective art encourages much further collaboration and raises the enthusiasm level. Synergy is birthed in this way—through collective inspiration. Attendees at the festival collaborate to build camps, start creating installations, and perform music. As a result, Playa transforms into the world’s biggest art space for the creative process.
- Every Burning Man participant should adhere to the following ten principles: radical self-reliance, radical inclusion, gifting, communal effort, decommodification, radical self-expression, civic responsibility, and leave no trace, involvement, or urgency. According to the organizers, these ten principles define a conscious society, so all guests are encouraged to become acquainted with them prior to the festival. They fight anyone who breaks the rules, whether it’s a regular guest or a significant brand. As a result, in 2012, the luxury brand Kurg Champagne violated a few principles at once: Kurg hosted a personal VIP party in exchange for the publishing of photos in a fashion magazine. Officials of the brand were barred from attending Burning Man for life, the journal was fined heavily, and Kurg Champagne suffered both financial and reputational losses.
- Many works of art find new homes just after the festival. Many people seem to believe that all displays are destroyed at the end. Only core objects, such as the Burning Man and the Temple, are consumed. Numerous different works are shown in a variety of expositions and art galleries. Some works of art forms are rented for cultural events, raves, private parties, as well as other cultural events. Many pieces of art found direct buyers at Burning Man. This does not refute the festival’s principles, given that this is a “place that provides unique opportunities.”
- People are transformed by Burning Man. The arcane, insight meditation, the interaction of experiences, and the ever-present magic are all present. People uncover new information about themselves, explore their most concealed sides, and expose themselves to the world and the universe within themselves. Larry Harvey, the festival’s founder, asserts that the event serves as a getaway for people.
- The weather conditions: There is really severe heat as well as sandstorms on Playa in the afternoon. The temperature decreases to 10 degrees at night, and occasionally to zero. Visitors are met with dust storms and sand, which soak up everything in their path. Novices should begin with a special ceremony: after exiting the bus, they should wallow in dust and filth. These conditions revert civilization to its original state, in which everyone must relearn how to survive. This is a great indicator of a person’s weaknesses, vices, or, on the other hand, fortitude and endurance.
- Everything should allow for self-expression. Burning Man is synonymous with colorful costumes and vibrant images. Everyone can express their creative thinking and actually realize their imaginings in their own pictures here. This is an excellent opportunity to dress up as a unique personality or create a new one. You have no boundaries. Everything here is art, including you.
- Burning Man is a chance to confront your anxieties or preconceptions. Where else but the desert can you conquer yourself, rethink your life views, and draw important conclusions? Situations and people around us complement and change everyone’s worldview. You will discover how to love, accept those around you, appreciate the little things, and dream here.
Travel tips when traveling to the Nevada Desert for the Burning Man Festival:
Hydration is the key to a good weekend at the Burning Man Festival
The playa is extremely scorching and dry, and there’s no water once you arrive at Black Rock City, which is kilometers from the closest town. Dehydration is one of the prevalent illnesses that occur at Burning Man, so bring plenty of water with you. Bring a minimum of 1.5 gallons of drinking water for each person per day, plus extra for dishwashing and a quick bath.
Drugs and Alcohol
From discos to marches to huge bonfires, Burning Man is one long event, with plenty of drugs and alcohol consumption (legal and illegal). If you decide to participate, be responsible—the playa is full of potential ways to harm oneself, even if you are sober. Keep in mind that harm, sickness, or death caused by drug or alcohol abuse are generally not covered by travel insurance, and may not even be protected by your personal medical insurance.
Burning Man is an inhibition-lowering experience, but that doesn’t mean you should lose all awareness. Wear sunscreen every day, carry a head torch at twilight, and keep foodstuffs chilled. Look after yourself and your friends.
Carry a first-aid kit with band-aids, antibacterial drug ointment, aloe vera, saline eye wash, forceps, and other essentials for minor injuries, as well as meds for allergies, diarrhea, as well as any prescription medications you’re looking to take. Do you use glasses or lenses? Don’t forget to bring an additional pair or two.
If you are seriously ill or injured, go to one of Black Rock City’s three clinical stations or even the primary Emergency Services Department station, which is staffed by urgent medical personnel 24 hours a day. Any Black Rock Ranger or ESD employee can assist you in locating appropriate care. In extreme cases, rescue operation by aircraft, helicopter, or ambulance to a Reno hospital is possible.
The Burning Man Festival and food
The only thing for purchase on the playa is ice, so carry your own beverages and food. Non-perishables are the easiest to transport; for a warm dinner, place a pre-cooked Indian meal pocket on your dashboard and leave it to warm up for a few hours. You can also make quesadillas this way.
Dust storms and the Burning Man Festival
The playa is covered in fine, alkaline soot and therefore is susceptible to strong winds, so expect at least one massive storm during your visit. Bring sunglasses and a face shield or headband, and keep them with you at all points in time. Dust storms create various whiteout conditions, so avoid driving, and if you’re out on the playa and can’t see any markers, stay put to avoid getting lost. The best course of action is to hunker down & await the storm to pass.
The scorching heat and the Burning Man Festival
The midday sun is extremely bright, and you won’t be finding much relaxation inside your tent. A durable shade structure is necessary because then you’ll spend a great deal of time lazing under it while waiting for the “golden hour,” when the sun begins to set and the playa comes to life.
Cash and the Burning Man Festival
Your money is useless on the playa. Except for ice, nothing is for sale, so if you come across someone handing out beads, lip balm, or handmade unicorn hats, take them. You are not required to provide anything at all in return, but given the appropriate, communitarian atmosphere of the event, you must be ready to participate in some way, whether it’s a meal, recreation, some type of assistance, or simply assisting your neighbors in chasing down their runaway tent. Please keep in mind that health permits are now required if you intend to start sharing, starting giving, or end up serving food or drinks to folks outside your camp.
Leave no trace
Say no to MOOP, or “matter out of place,” which refers to any item that is not an organic element of the environment. Take care not to leave any garbage, luminescent sticks, wiggly eyes, monkey costumes, or other relics of your excursions behind. Bring no items that can completely destroy, only use compostable, eco-friendly materials and dishwashing liquid; and bundle out your grey water. As cruel as the playa may appear, it is a fragile environment, so tread lightly.
Crimes at the Burning Man Festival
When it comes to theft, it is recommended that you leave your valuable items at home. The heat and dust will damage cams and laptops, there is no WiFi or cell service in Black Rock City, and it is difficult to keep your belongings secure. If you are a victim of burglary or another crime, contact the Pershing County Sheriff’s Office, which has a presence in Black Rock City; you will almost certainly need a law enforcement report if you want to claim compensation with your insurance company. Keep in mind that, whilst renters insurance may cover personal property stolen from your vehicle, travel insurance policies frequently exclude items stolen from or left unattended in a vehicle.
Taking photos at the Burning Man Festival
Burning Man is a no-judgment zone. If anybody wishes to participate in the topless bike parade, they should really be able to do so without fear of their photograph being published on the Internet. Invariably, ask permission before photographing someone out of respect and politeness. (This is sound advice wherever you go.) If you are offended by nakedness, Burning Man isn’t for you.
Unless you own a vehicle that has been specially certified to drive on the playa, you will only be allowed to motor from the entrance to your camping site and back out. However, there are a lot of hot wilderness roads on the way to Black Rock City, and you may encounter a long and complex traffic jam or two. Check your car’s refrigerant fluid, belts, and tubing before leaving, and carry additional coolant with you.
If you decide to go, you will need to do some advanced thinking and dedication. You must provide your own food, water, housing, dust goggles, and unusual clothing. Even though you don’t spend a dime at the venue, getting there and back can be a huge expense.
During a celebration that is a great equalizer, those who cannot afford it are automatically excluded. That is not the intention, and the organizers make every effort to compensate with measures such as discounted tickets, art grants, and different forms of community engagement.
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