What is Burning Man?

There are many answers to this question. Burning Man can be one thing to one person and something else to another. Burners, festival participants, have a tough time telling someone what burning man is to someone who has never been. Sometimes it's hard to describe in words the feelings you get from an experience.

The barebones of the Burning Man festival are this. Every year, thousands of people who call themselves burners begin their pilgrimage to the Black Rock desert in northern Nevada. And for 8 days, they participate in the Burning Man festival, an experiment in "community, radical self-expression and radical-self reliance." Weeks before the festival even begins, numerous volunteers show up to build this temporary city that is known as Black Rock City, the BRC.

Then on the last Monday in August until the first Monday in September, this "experiment" goes full force. Art, dance and music are some of the forms this radical self-expression takes. It all culminates to Saturday night for the burning of the man, the first form of radical self-expression that started it all.

How did Burning Man Begin?

In the summer of '86, Larry Harvey and Jerry James constructed an 8 foot tall wooden man and brought it to Baker Beach in San Francisco. In a spontaneous moment, they decided to burn the man. People near the event were drawn in by the burning figure. No one knew why they were so taken with it but they all knew they were witnessing something special.

The burning of the man at Baker Beach continued until 1990. By this time what started as a handful had become hundreds. When San Francisco authorities got wind of the burning, they had to shut it down believing it to be a fire hazard as the man had grown from 8 feet to 40. This is when the event was moved to the desert in Nevada and the current incarnation of the festival was born.

Burning Man Today

Last year, more than 49,000 people arrived in the desert with their Burning Man tickets in hand. Since 1995, each year has had a theme. This year's theme is Evolution. Appropriate for an event that has seen its own fair share of evolution.

As with anything of this size, certain measures have been taken to ensure the safety of all of the residents in BRC. There are the 10 governing principles, along with state law enforcement patrols as well as a group of volunteers known as the Black Rock Rangers. The Black Rock Rangers serve as informal mediators for disputes among burners and also between burners and law enforcement personnel. Not to mention the incorporation of the Burning Man itself. In 1997 Burning Man became an LLC.

However, radical self-expression is still one of the bedrocks on which Burning Man stands. Not surprisingly, outsider and visionary art are prevalent throughout the festival. The artwork is seen as a "gift" to the community. Even transportation around the city is art. Aside from the pre-approved art cars, bikes are the main mode of getting around when not walking. But many decorate their bikes as well.

Burning Man tickets are not available at the gate but can still be purchased through the website. Tickets are typically around $300. Although sometimes you can find them on craigslist for less. You can also join local groups that continue the spirit of Burning Man year round.