Burning Man organizers announced Friday that the festival in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert will not go ahead this year in an effort to limit the spread of the coronavirus. Burning Man brings in $60 million each year to the local economy, according to Burning Man’s own economic analysis. It is the first time since the festival began in 1986 that it has had to be canceled.
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“After much listening, discussion, and careful consideration, we have made the difficult decision not to build Black Rock City in 2020. Given the painful reality of COVID-19, one of the greatest global challenges of our lifetimes, we believe this is the right thing to do. Yes, we are heartbroken. We know you are too,” a statement on the Burning Man Journal said.
Although the main ticket sale event hasn’t yet taken place, anybody who had bought their ticket early will receive a full refund. Tickets to the event are $475, plus $140 for a vehicle pass. This year’s event was scheduled to run from 30th August through 7th September. The Burning Man Project added that it would be continuing the spirit of the event in the “multiverse,” this year’s theme, but it is unknown what that will look like.
To ensure the viability of the festival in future years, Burning Man Project said they will have to move forward with “substantial staff layoffs, pay reductions, and other belt-tightening measures,” the Friday statement said.
Burning Man is just the latest in a long line of festivals and sporting events that have been canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. One notable exception is the Tour de France, the world-famous cycle race. Scheduled to begin on 27th June, there is yet to be an official announcement regarding this year’s event.
Burning Man is an event held annually since 1986 in the western United States at Black Rock City, a temporary city erected in the Black Rock Desert of northwest Nevada, approximately 100 miles north-northeast of Reno and a thriving year-round culture generated by a global community of participants. The late summer event in Black Rock City is an experiment in community and art, influenced by ten main principles: radical inclusion, radical self-reliance, radical self-expression, communal effort, civic responsibility, gifting, decommodification, participation, immediacy and leave no trace. The event takes its name from its culmination, the symbolic ritual burning of a large wooden effigy (“The Man”) that traditionally occurs on the Saturday evening of the event.
First held 34 years ago in 1986 on Baker Beach in San Francisco as a small function organized by Larry Harvey and Jerry James who built the first “Man”, it has since been held annually, spanning the nine days leading up to and including Labor Day (the opening day is a Sunday, while the closing day is the first Monday in September). The 2019 event ran from August 25 to September 2.
At Burning Man, the community explores various forms of artistic self-expression, which are created to be enjoyed by all participants. An anonymous attendee once elaborated that “Burning Man is about ‘why not’ overwhelming ‘why'”. Said NPR, “Once considered an underground gathering for bohemians and free spirits of all stripes, Burning Man has since evolved into a destination for social media influencers, celebrities and the Silicon Valley elite.” Participation is a key precept for the community; selfless giving of one’s unique talents for the enjoyment of all is encouraged. Examples of creativity include experimental and interactive sculptures, buildings, performances, and art cars, among other media. These contributions are inspired by a theme that is chosen annually by the organizers.
Burning Man is organized by the Burning Man Project, a non-profit organization that, in 2014, succeeded a for-profit limited liability company (Black Rock City LLC) that was formed in 1999 to represent the event’s organizers, and is now considered a subsidiary of the non-profit organization. In 2010, 51,515 people attended Burning Man. Attendance in 2011 was capped at 50,000 participants and the event sold out on July 24; the attendance rose to 70,000 in 2015. The Burning Man Project endorses multiple smaller regional events inspired by the Burning Man principles both in the United States and internationally. The organization provides the essential infrastructure of Black Rock City and works year-round to bring Burning Man culture to the world and to support its global participant community in manifesting its Ten Principles through six interconnected and aspirational program areas: Arts, Civic Involvement, Culture, Education, Philosophical Center, and Social Enterprise.