Guy W. Farmer: Black Rock bacchanal is no place for children

I wasn't going to write about Burning Man this year, but I changed my mind last weekend when I learned that the first person arrested at this year's edition of the naked drug festival was a fugitive child molester from Texas. And what's worse, he wasn't the only sex offender at the event.

Alicia Craig of the Lovelock Review-Miner reported that Pershing County sheriff's deputies arrested 20-something Seth Hilliker of Austin, Texas, on warrants charging him with attempting to fondle a 4-year-old girl and "inappropriately touching" a 10-year-old girl in Austin in 2007.

Hilliker's arrest matters because Pershing County Sheriff Ron Skinner told Ms. Craig that the presence of young children at this annual X-rated event on public land is on the rise, especially since the addition of "Kidsville" and other children's camps. Skinner warned that, "Burning Man attracts an element of people who are dangerous for children" before providing some examples of Burner-style "parenting" from this year's festival:

• A 5-year old-child was found asleep in a stroller outside of a camp hosting a "rave" (drug) party.

• Sheriff's deputies were called to a camp where a woman was rolling on the ground uncontrollably while her 8-year-old child watched tearfully.

• A 17-year-old girl went into a sanctuary tent asking help to find her father, who had dropped her off at Burning Man.

So where was Child and Family Services? Don't ask. When I visited Burning Man last year I saw a naked middle-aged man who could have been a child molester cavorting dangerously near "Kidsville." My official escorts laughed it off, explaining that everyone goes naked at Burning Man, "the way God intended."

OK, but I don't think God intends to make young children readily available to sex offenders on public lands managed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, which makes more than $1 million a year off a Black Rock Desert bacchanal that grosses $12 million to $15 million each year for its Bay Area organizers.

In fact, the BLM supervisor of last year's event, Roger Forschan, acknowledged his personal concerns about children and illegal drugs and admitted that he wouldn't bring his own children to Burning Man. Good thinking, Roger.

"I enjoyed my visit ... and won't ever write another word about it if they move the event to private property ... and leave the kids at home," I wrote. I rest my case.

Correction: Last Sunday I identified Sen. Lindsey Graham as a North Carolina Republican. He's from South Carolina. Sorry about that.

• Guy W. Farmer, of Carson City, has been a Burning Man critic since he began writing this column in 1996.


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