Past time to move Burning Man to private property
September 4, 2003
A death and two plane crashes should spur the Bureau of Land Management to finally pull the plug on the annual Burning Man festival on the Black Rock Desert north of Reno.
This year’s event was described as “otherwise peaceful,” which will be small consolation to the familes of a woman who died when her “art car” accidentally ran over her, and to five people who were seriously injured when their planes crashed on the makeshift landing strip in the middle of the desert.
A record 30,500 people showed up for this year’s version of Soddom and Gomorrah on public property.
It has been obvious for a half-dozen years now that the event has outgrown the ability of its organizers to properly oversee it. If someone wants to host future Burning Man rituals on their own private property, let them take the risk.
The U.S. government — the taxpayers — shouldn’t be playing host to an event that has become known as much for its drug use and sexual laissez faire as it has for its creative and artistic freedom.
We don’t mean to sound like prudes, but acts that would bring arrests at, say, Hot August Nights or the Best of the West Rib Cookoff are greeted with little more than a grin and a wink at Burning Man.
For an event that prides itself on freedom, the hypocrisies at Burning Man tend to pile up. For one thing, they charge from $225 to $300 for each person to attend.
Organizers stress that Burning Man is a “private event,” and though they brag their homemade Black Rock City is a First Amendment ideal, it’s exactly the opposite. Anyone who wants to take a picture at Burning Man must register their camera and get permission to show it to anyone other than family and friends.
If the BLM insists on permitting future Burning Man festivals, there’s one thing Nevada can do: Make sure those tickets are included under the new entertainment tax.
By our calculations, Burning Man organizers are raking in more than $6 million in admission fees. That calculates to a cool $300,000 for Nevada’s tax coffers.