With some 50,000 visitors expected by Friday, the Burning Man celebration at Block Rock City near Gerlach got off to a slow start Monday as winds whipped up frequent whiteouts and held up Burners working to build artworks on the playa. By Tuesday afternoon many of the special art displays and creations were still under construction.
Ray Allen, project director for the Burning Man marking of alternative lifestyles, said that "50,000 Burners were expected this time, up from 47,000 last year."
This year the event is titled the "American Dream," said Brad Berwick of Boston, a volunteer at the Burn. "The idea is that people come to the Burn and see the art works and the celebrations going on and take them home with them to make their own 'American Dream.'" This is his third year at Burning Man.
A tour of Black Rock City, a large semicircle laid out on the Black Rock Desert, showed that Kidsville, where families are encouraged to gather, was well populated with children jumping on trampolines with parents standing by.
The chief Bureau of Land Management officer Roger Farschon said that incidents had been few two days into the event. He cited a figure of 26,000 guests counted by Tuesday noon. Average citations last year were 300 incidents and 50 transports of ill or injured Burners to hospitals. Most citations are settled on the spot, he said. From the BLM, which manages the Black Rock Desert, 45 rangers police the event, and from Washoe County 30 more officers help out.
"We get very little violence during the Burning," Farschon said.
Continuing the tour of Black Rock City, the main Freedom Cafe was busy selling coffee and tea as usual with Burners twisting and dancing center stage. Out on the playa installations already completed included a ketchup bottle that opens up in the afternoon and gives away free french fries and a complete Roller Rink, with free skates to those who want to move around on the planked surface. And there's the Death House, where participants hang from a dome and battle one another while strapped in safety seats.
The Burning Man has grown into big money, with 50,000 Burners paying up to $350 for tickets. Most sleep in tents although many giant RVs are in evidence. The BLM receives payment for all policing costs as well as 3 percent of the total gate. What is left over is used to upgrade Calico Mountain trails near the playa.
Late Tuesday afternoon the gates to Black Rock City had long lines. On Highway 447 out of Wadsworth, bunches of cars packed the road. Most Burners are expected to arrive by this afternoon.
The celebration reaches its climax Saturday night when the towering Burning Man effigy goes up in flames after a massive fireworks display. On Sunday night many of the elaborate art works scattered around the playa for miles will also go up in flames.
Tickets are no longer being sold to the event.