This year’s ‘Burning Man’ festival is officially cancelled, but that won’t stop thousands of people from gathering at the event’s traditional site in northern Nevada in the US this week for an unauthorised celebration in the same vein.
Officials at the Bureau of Land Management – which controls Black Rock Desert, where ‘Burning Man’ typically takes place the week before Labor Day – estimate that roughly 10,000 people will arrive to the site this week for a non-ticketed event that’s widely being referred to as ‘Free Burn’ and ‘Renegade Burn’, among other non-official titles.
Lands managed by the Black Rock Field Office (BRFO) are available for the public to use year-round, with a 14-day limit to recreational use and camping, according to Billboard.com.
The Bureau of Land Management has issued a number of temporary restrictions that will apply on the site through October 31, 2021, which include ignition of fires other than a campfire, burning of structures, building of structures, possession and or use of lasers and aircraft landing, taking off, touch-and-go landings.
These restrictions provide that this year’s ‘non-event’ will look much different than typical ‘Burning Man’ festivals, which are incredible spectacles of fire, lasers and ornate art installations and stage structures. ‘Burning Man’ usually also has an airstrip for on-site arrivals.
These restrictions aren’t, however, deterring ‘Free Burners’ from trekking to the desert and people started arriving at Black Rock Desert for ‘Free Burn’ as early as August 20, according to Heather O’ Hanlon, Public affairs specialist at Winnemucca District Office Bureau of Land Management.
While O’ Hanlon notes that her organisation is preparing for 100,000 people to arrive to the site, she says this number “may change with the poor air quality the area is experiencing due to fires.”
Beyond this challenge, with ‘Burning Man’ officially cancelling the 2021 event in April due to the pandemic (after considering requiring COVID-19 vaccinations for all attendees), this week’s “non-event” will not have any of the infrastructure typically provided by the organisation, such as porto-potties, medical services and the roughly 10,000 volunteers who provide various modes of support.
For fans who prefer to stay home this year, ‘Burning Man’ is hosting its second annual ‘Virtual Burn’, featuring six different “virtual worlds” and a live stream.