Burning Man kicks off in Black Rock
Appeal Staff Writer
BLACK ROCK CITY, NEAR GERLACH – They opened the gates for the annual Burning Man event Sunday at midnight, and by 3 p.m. Monday, cars and trucks, RVs and weirdly powered machines – including a steam-powered Case tractor – were still moving into the city.
Organizers are expecting just a few more guests than last year, when more than 35,000 people showed up for the week of alternative-lifestyle living on the Black Rock Desert playa nine miles from Gerlach.
This year’s theme is “Hope and Fear – the Future.” No explanation of the slogan was offered, in true Burning Man style.
The event (“not a festival,” organizers stoutly maintain) culminates Saturday when the Burning Man, a 60-foot statue of wood and lights, goes up in a awesome blaze of glory.
Black Rock City is a semicircular town, built in just a few weeks by Burning Man LLC staffers and volunteers. Building it is like creating a city more than half the size of Carson City – practically overnight.
Affinity groups cluster together, everything from astrology devotees to fire worshippers, in tents, RVs and trailers. Some even sleep out on the hard-clay playa.
Out on the playa, works of art were rising Monday, including the spectacular Shape of the Future wooden topographic structure made of 100 miles of 2-by-4s, held together with nothing but nails. Beneath the Burning Man itself is a show of art deco works. It will go up in smoke with the Burning Man on Saturday about 9 p.m.
While much of the event is much like last year, there are some changes. The Bureau of Land Management grants permission for the event then takes over major law enforcement, with help of other police groups.
“Our actions are the same here as they would be in any city. If an officer sees someone doing something illegal, he will take the appropriate steps,” said Jamie Thompson of the BLM.
“We’ve added some clauses to the permit, chiefly that the Burning Man can grow no more than 4 percent higher than the year before,” Thompson said.
The BLM receives $4 per person for every day of the celebration, most of which is spent on law enforcement. Anything left over goes to upgrading the Black Rock Mountain and area canyon camping and hiking facilities.
Monday’s crowd was colorfully dressed (or undressed, in many cases), riding bicycles around the playa. A somewhat new element is the widespread use of “pasties,” from the old stripper costumes. As far as outright nudity, the men outnumbered the women 10 to two, in an unofficial count.
Burning Man winds up Sunday with a second conflagration, that of the artworks scattered widely about the playa. Tickets are available at the gate outside Gerlach, for an escalating price of nearly $500 by Friday.
Guests drive in and must stay parked until they leave. There’s even a Kiddyville, where families with children stay, largely away from the main crowds.
• Contact Sam Bauman at email@example.com or 881-1236.