Burning Man Returns To Playa This Week


Bureau of Land Management/Flickr

Once a year, tens of thousands of participants gather in Nevada's Black Rock Desert to create Black Rock City, dedicated to community, art, self-expression and self-reliance.

A lot of Las Vegans only know about Burning Man from the crazy photos that turn up in the newspapers and magazines every year.

One of Burning Man’s founders has even said trying to explain the desert festival is “a bit like trying to explain what a particular color looks like to someone who is blind.”

So just what is Burning Man, the Labor Day weekend festival 110 miles north of Reno?

Jenny Kane, the Burning Man reporter at the Reno Gazette Journal, and founding board member Michael Mikel attempt to define it. 

"It's like a camping trip in the most inhospitable place on the planet with 70,000 close friends," Mikel said. "You can be free and open in your expressions, your appearance ... it's really something that's almost impossible to describe. 

Day one of Burning Man saw heavy traffic jams into Black Rock city, with some spending up to 5 hours waiting to make the short trek from the rural highway into the playa. 

For burners, however, it's a small price to pay. In its 32nd year, many attendees have been around since the beginning, and many more vow to make the principles of Burning Man much more than a week-long adventure into the desert. 

Support comes from

"I've met Republicans, Democrats and people who have a wide array of beliefs," Kane said. "And you have doctors and lawyers and then you have the people who work on the art. 

"And then you have other folks who want to experiment and make something really interesting, like making a car that looks like an alligator and drive it around on the playa for a week and then they go back to their job as an accountant or something." 

The burner lifestyle isn't without its critics. What started as a festival to celebrate a counter culter, is also one that has a price tag. General admission tickets start at $425, and producing full camps can get into the thousands. Some have said this has made the event a celebration for the elite, especially with the proximity of tech hubs like Silicon Valley. 

Mikel said that the event has indeed grown to include the super rich, but that has also meant the opportunity to expand and improve upon the core artistic focus. 

"The art is now spilling out into the world outside of Burning Man, and there's more pieces of Burning Man art in Reno than other city. That's by and large made possibly by the wealthy people coming out there. 

It's always been more than just an art festival. It's an experiment in community. 


Jenny Kane, Burning Man reporter, Reno Gazette Journal; Michael Mikel, founding member, Burning Man Project

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