Burning Man ignited – again
August 29, 2007
After a San Francisco performance artist allegedly set fire to the Burning Man effigy early Wednesday, workmen spent two days busily rebuilding the huge effigy, just so that he could once again be lit up Saturday night in front of more than 47,000 Burners.
Despite the hours-long whiteout that blanked this city late Friday afternoon, enthusiasm was high as first fireworks erupted from the Man, then the flames began licking up his legs. A mixed chorus of cheers and sighs climaxed as the man slowly disintegrated and plunged to the fire blanket bare ground below. Tonight there will be another burn out on the playa of art created for the Man.
Much of the action Saturday was the crowd biking or walking around the art works scattered across the open spaces. The Temple of Remembrance, a wooden structure with an Asian motif, was thronged with Burners writing messages to loved ones on wood which would be burned in the night with the Man.
In most respects this 2007 Burning Man has followed the 21 such events that proceeded it. More people, more events, more art, more music and undoubtedly more dope and alcohol consumption.
Reactions on the playa, where this year’s theme for the festival is “The Green Man,” ranged from amusement and support to frustration and anger at the premature blaze.
“We wait all year long. This is an adults’ Christmas party,” said a disappointed Burner named Erica.
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“I am disturbed that the Man is burned. As I looked at it, I was going, ‘This can’t be happening,'” said Bob Harms of South Lake Tahoe, a seven-time Burner.
“Some people were chanting, ‘Let him burn, let him burn!’ and some were chanting, ‘Save the Man, save the Man!'” said Kyle Marx of Eugene, Ore.
The crowd as of noon Saturday reached 47,097, up about 21 percent over last year, said Jamie Thompson, a spokesman for the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. Temperatures were in the upper 90s, common for this time of the year on the usually barren playa.
This year’s Burn focuses on keeping the planet green. Displays at the Man’s pavilion house several “green” exhibits from makers of such products.
Ray Allen, executive project manager (he says sheepishly), said, “For the first time, we’re powering Black Rock City by wind power. We’re also using solar power, and after the Burn, we’ll donate the solar panels to the Gerlach High School and Pershing General Hospital.”
Biodiesel is also being used to power city vehicles. A bike program put 1,300 green-painted bikes in the city – free for anyone to use, ride, and leave wherever they want.
“We’re collecting used lumber again this year to give to the Habitat for Humanity in Reno. Last Burn, we loaded six semis with lumber for Reno. We hope to do better this year.”
Allen said criticism was accepted freely.
“We know some people don’t like the idea of a counterculture event on public property, but we do more than stage an event. Surveys show Burners spend more than $10 million passing to Black Rock. We spend more than $5 million on supplies in Nevada. We’ve Wi-Fied Gerlach for free. From ice sales (about the only item sold on the playa, other than coffee), we’ve given $450,000 to local groups and funded more than $2 million for artworks and artists.
“And we leave the playa clean when we wind up. Every year, the BLM checks to see how much waste we’ve left. We pass every year. We’re a ‘leave no trace’ organization.”
Black Rock City is laid out at a semicircle with the Burning Man pavilion in the center. Radials named for the hours of the clock lead to the pavilion, and circular streets arc around the center. Burners are on the move all day and night, so even with a specific location – “7 o’clock at Coral Reef” – it’s easy to miss connections.
Some of those who called the Appeal include Shelbie Memro, 23, and her friend George Fujii, from Gardnerville. It’s her first time, although Fujii has been several times. They left on Wednesday.
“It’s my first time, and I’m looking forward to seeing things I’ve never expected to see before.” Memro said.
Kathy Coffee left Thursday with her daughter, who has been to the Burn several times. It’s Coffee’s first.
Burn officials said that tickets were sold for $350.
As for the man who allegedly responsible for the early burn, he was promptly arrested.
Paul David Addis, 35, posted $25,632 bail and was released Tuesday afternoon from the Pershing County Jail in Lovelock. He was booked on felony charges of arson and destruction of property and misdemeanor possession of fireworks and resisting a public officer.
• The Associated Press contributed to this article.
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