Burning Man organizers have announced that they are canceling this summer’s annual counter-culture festival in the Nevada desert for the second year in a row due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The San Francisco-based group posted a video on its website that said there are too many uncertainties to resolve in time to hold the celeb-beloved art event in the Black Rock Desert 100 miles north of Reno, usually attended by tens of thousands of people.
Burning Man CEO Marian Goodell said the ‘difficult decision’ to not hold the event as scheduled August 26 to September 3 is ‘based on the best information available to us’.
Snuffed out: Burning Man festival has been canceled for the second year in a row, due to the pandemic
‘We know the need for community has never been stronger. And building community is what Burners do best. We also recognize the pandemic is not over,’ she said. ‘We have decided to focus our energy on building Black Rock City 2022.
Burning Man’s official Instagram echoed that message in another statement, writing: ‘The past 14 months have been a turbulent journey of evolution and change for every human on this planet. We have had to adapt to the twists and turns of a global crisis, complex public health information, and the growing hope that we can start rebuilding our lives together soon.
‘Although here in the United States we may be feeling the weight lifting and the light at the end of the tunnel brightening, we are still in the pandemic, and the uncertainties that need to be resolved are impossible to do so in the time we have.’
The statement went on to say organizers are focused on the 2022 event and encouraged revelers to look to the future.
‘We have decided to set our sights on Black Rock City 2022,’ they wrote. ‘We have the time now to imagine what we can bring to BRC 2022 that will really make a difference. What would it look like if Burning Man culture shaped the future? How do you want to bring the best of what you have to give to the next gathering in the desert? How can you get involved around the world RIGHT NOW? ‘
The Reno Gazette Journal first reported the news on Tuesday on its website.
Not happening: The San Francisco-based organizing group said there are too many uncertainties to resolve in time to hold the celeb-beloved art event as scheduled August 26 to September 3 in the Black Rock Desert 100 miles north of Reno
Trippy: Burning Man began as a small gathering in San Francisco in 1986 and has since exploded into a phenomenon which now attracts tens of thousands of people to the Nevada desert to make art, party, and experience life. A snap from 1998 above
Fire: A Burning Man Ranger guards the inner perimeter around the effigy of ‘The Man’ in 2017
The decision was based on a combination of factors, not a single issue, the group said.
‘Although here in the United States we may be feeling the weight lifting and the light at the end of the tunnel brightening, we are still in the pandemic, and the uncertainties that need to be resolved are impossible to resolve in the time we have,’ the group added.
Previously the group had planned to throw a slightly scaled down celebration, with Goodell saying their application for a special use permit to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management asked for an attendance cap of 69,000, down from the 80,000 cap approved for some past festivals.
In 2019, the last time the event was held, 78,850 people participated. Dedicated festival-goers are known as Burners, both inside and outside the community.
Burning Man began as a small gathering in San Francisco in 1986 and has since exploded into a phenomenon which now attracts tens of thousands of people to the Nevada desert to make art, party, and experience life.
In past years the counter-culture festival has been criticized for loosing touch with its hippie roots, as well as becoming increasingly inaccessible to people without clout, connections or major cash.
In 2019 NPR described Burning Man: ‘Once considered an underground gathering for bohemians and free spirits of all stripes, Burning Man has since evolved into a destination for social media influencers, celebrities and the Silicon Valley elite.’
Dusty: One of the interactive sculptures pictured at the 2019 Burning Man festival
Dress up: Costumes are colorful and creative as the festival takes places in the cast expanse of the Nevada desert
Fun: A group of revelers are surrounded by a plastic heart bubble in the middle of the desert
Performance: Stilt walkers enjoy a sunset stroll at the in the Black Rock Desert 100 miles north east of Reno, Nevada. Burning Man organizers were considering requiring attendees to prove they’ve been vaccinated for COVID-19
The announcement comes after the festival announced they would be requiring attendees to prove they have been vaccinated for COVID-19, before backtracking and saying they were still ‘considering’ the measures.
Goodell said in a video message posted on the group´s web site on April 8 that ‘vaccines will be required to come to Burning Man.’
She erroneously said at that time that the state of Nevada requires that people have proof of being vaccinated at large gatherings.
Goodell acknowledged in an updated statement on the group’s web site that she ‘misspoke.’
Citing a backlash from many long-time attendees at the annual event, Goodell clarified that organizers had been formulating their own guidelines on mandatory vaccinations as part of the health and safety plan they must submit to state and county officials.
Digital: Last year the Burning Man Festival went virtual with people participating online
Distance: In 2020, online revelers were encouraged to participate in various art and music projects
Online there were varying responses to the vaccination idea with some injecting a little humor.
‘Apparently there are practical hippies. Who knew?’ wrote one user.
‘The only vaccine Burning Man should make mandatory is one for HPV,’ joked another.
‘EVERY larger gathering, sporting event, etc should make it mandatory,’ agrees another.
‘We are weighing the gravity of what that does,’ Goodell said. ‘And we know that challenges the concept of `radical inclusion’ , but at this point we kind of look at the ten principals as kind of a body or work, and civic responsibility weighs in there heavily,’ Goodell continued.
She said civic responsibility is an important part of organizers’ guiding principles but that they realize people in some countries haven´t had access to vaccines, nor have most children.
‘That´s not quite figured out yet. There are plenty of people that are challenging whether it is necessary,’ she said.
Goodell added: ‘We hear you. The question of vaccines and how to basically require them, and even from a logistical standing, frankly – all of that, we´re taking a look at.’
At the time Goodell said organizers had not decided whether to require or provide testing at the event.
‘At this point, the government agencies involved in collaborating with us have been really super supportive and super helpful. They are not putting up any roadblocks. We are all looking at the resources to have to make it happen and get this done,’ Goodell said.
Goodell said the application organizers must submit for a special use permit to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management by April 23 seeks an attendance cap of 69,000, down from the 80,000 cap approved for some past festivals.
She said current input from leaders of the largest theme camps indicate about 20% to 30% so far are committed to returning to the playa in August, which would suggest overall attendance in the range of 60,000 to 65,000.
Desert city: Burning Man is pictured in 2019, as 70,000 artists and party people descended on the Nevada desert
Last year the Burning Man festival was canceled for the first time in its three-decade history because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Still, about 3000 to 5000 diehards ventured out to the desert for an unofficial event, which the Bureau Of Land Management staffed a number of law enforcement for security and safety measures.
In Tuesday’s statement, Burning Man organizers welcomed such celebrations, telling Burners: ‘Some of you will choose to gather, co-create and celebrate Burning Man culture on the playa this year.
‘The Bureau of Land Management says at this time public lands will remain open to the public. Anyone choosing to camp on the playa this year will need to be entirely self-sufficient.’
The festival, known for building giant works of art and setting them on fire, was instead held virtually.
Waiting until 2022: A tweet from last year announcing the cancellation of the Burning Man festival