What is Burning Man?

The Black Rock Desert, in Nevada, is where the Burning Man Festival is annually held.
The Black Rock Desert, in Nevada, is where the Burning Man Festival is annually held.

What is Burning Man?

Every year, over 5½ square miles of the Black Rock Desert in Nevada is covered with incredible art, events, workshops, and weird and wonderful people engaging in a variety of activities. People from all corners of the country, and even from around the world, congregate for the annual Burning Man gathering. The gathering is held on the last Sunday of August to the first Monday of September to coincide with U.S. Labor Day. A temporary city, known as Black Rock City, is erected and serves as the headquarters of the festival. The Burning Man was introduced by Larry Harvey and his friends and was first held in 1986 in Baker Beach, San Francisco. Participation is the key driver to the success of Burning Man; people are advised to participate in what they are good at. The participants who are known as burners are guided by a set of principles to guide them through the various activities. The principles are participation, gifting, radical self-reliance, communal effort, civic responsibility, immediacy, decommodification, and leaving no trace.

Black Rock City

Black Rock City (BRC) is a temporary city constructed by the participants of the Burning Man. A large section of the city is constructed by volunteers from Department of Public Works who begin construction weeks before the event and stay after the event to clear the site. The city consists of a series of streets arranged in an arc shape with a 1.5-mile diameter. At the center of the city is the Man Sculpture.

Highlight of the Festival

Burners engage in several activities including riding a mechanical snail, duck, and unicorns. Several art cars are available during the festival. The dress code is unique, and everyone is allowed to dress in whatever way they like. You are likely to come across a sparkle ponies and yoga bunnies. The art installations are magnificent; the event attracts a large number of people who are willing to spend time on creativity. From mechanical hyenas, pirate ships, and a camel train of giant tea pots, all interpretations of creativity are exhibited at the festival.

Bicycles are used for transportation while boots are the recommended footwear to avoid injuries and insect bites. Burners are required to carry battery operated torches, food, and snacks they can eat. Cash is not necessary since there is nothing to buy during the festival. The peak of the Burning Man is the Saturday Burn which involves the burning of a large wooden structure. In 2016, a large wooden saucer shaped spaceship was set on fire accompanied by fireworks. Once the festival comes to an end, everyone is required to leave with everything they came with. Dumping of any sort is prohibited, and volunteers are left behind to clear the city. A week after the festival there will be no evidence that it was ever held there and the principle of "leaving no trace" is achieved.


Though the event is praised by the Burners and Burners to be, it has received its share of criticism. The event has been accused of releasing 27,000 tons of CO2. The Burners have also been accused of dumping thousands of plastics and other non-biodegradable items. In 2007, the event spent 2000 gallons of propane and 900 gallons of jet fuel to blast a mushroom cloud into the sky. The explosions, flames, people, and urbanization of the desert also cause disturbance in the ecological niche of the insects residing in the area.


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