What is Burning Man?

Burning Man is a week-long festival held in Black Rock City, Nevada, the week before Labor Day. It’s an odd mix of people learning survival skills while also producing art and music. The annual tradition of burning the wooden sculpture of a man, which is created each year for the event, brings it all to a close. Thousands of people travel to Burning Man each year, paying between $200 and $300 US Dollars (USD) per person to attend the festival. Many people make this a yearly pilgrimage, claiming that there is nothing like it anywhere else on the planet.

Larry Harvey and Jerry James, two friends, created Burning Man. Larry was desperate to burn a man sculpture, so he did so on a beach in San Francisco in 1986. The first “man” was an 8-foot (2.44m) wooden figure intended to symbolize a gift. People flocked to see the Burning Man light up, sing, or help with the burning, and Harvey and James realized that there was something special, spiritual, and unique about this process.

The reaction of the first witnesses most likely influenced the decision to repeat Burning Man every year. Unfortunately, attitudes toward the effigy shifted in 1989, and those who attended the 1989 “burning” did not react spiritually. Instead, obscenities were chanted, which bothered Harvey and James greatly. They wanted an alternative to San Francisco, so they decided to expand Burning Man while also limiting it locating it in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert, which is a harsh environment that gets especially hot in the summer. By relocating it, James and Harvey were able to free it from those who came just to see something burn.

The festival is now primarily about people living in community. There is little to no commercial presence at the event, and food and gifts are shared. Rather, a barter and trade economy is the norm. Each year, a large number of artists travel to the event to create massive art installations. Unlike other anti-social events, Burning Man works closely with local authorities to ensure that the now 4-story-high man is safely burned and that no harm is done to the environment. All participants are reminded to recycle and clean up after themselves.

The Burning Man website sells tickets to the event and provides a wealth of information on how to survive in cramped campsites. A lot of their philosophy and community-building ideas are emphasized. The website also sells tickets to the event, which can sell out quickly. The event offers a one-of-a-kind experience that is also relatively safe due to its emphasis on moral and civic behavior. The festival does not tolerate the use of illegal drugs, and their good working relationship with the local authorities has resulted in very few issues at previous events.