The Burning Man Project

By David Fleet
Black Rock City, Nev.— It’s a blank canvas.
That’s how Tim Burr, a 2007 Goodrich High School graduate who, since 2016 has made four trips from his Boise, Idaho home to Nevada’s Black Rock Desert and the temporary Black Rock City that emerges for about a week in late August.
“Burning Man is different in many ways,” said Burr, who earned a bachelors and master’s degree from the University of Oklahoma after high school.
This year was no different, a veteran “Burner” who embraces the event to step away from his daily routine.
The Burning Man Project emerged on Baker Beach in 1986 just outside San Francisco. Back then, bystanders watched as Harvey and Jerry James torched an eight-foot-tall model of a wooden man. Each year the event which grew into a yearly festival expanded and moved from the California coast to the Nevada desert in 1990. Since that time The Burning Man project has grown to nearly 70,000 people who gather together in a pop-up city in the desert in less than a month. A full price ticket is $600.
“I always camp with friends, complete with a kitchen,” said Burr. “Burning Man has sold out since 2013, but this year it was pretty easy to find a ticket. I like to travel and experience new things. Burning Man is just that experience. It’s out in the middle of nowhere, Burning Man is different in a couple ways.”
The “Burners” set their own agenda from ultra marathons to extreme art to storytelling. They don’t book acts or provide entertainment, rather create a world often likened to a mix of self-expression, community building and a surreal counterculture gathered in the desert.
“Walk in any direction, there’s always something weird going on,” he said. “What happens is really up to you. It’s never boring.”
“There’s no food vendors other than ice for your food, you bring in everything, it’s on you to be self-reliant,” he said. “We also bring extra for others, we host a party and then other do the same thing. This year we cooked hot dogs and just gave them to all who stopped by.”
An important aspect of Burning Man is the community spirit.
“In modern life much of life is mediated by money,” he said. “Everyday it’s all about a cell phone and a plastic card. It’s refreshing to get out of that sometimes. It was amazing how life changes when cash is left behind.”
On Sept. 1 a light rain started falling, then it became much heavier turning the desert sand in mud creating major issues for the thousands who attended.
“They called it ‘Muddy Man,’” he said. It was way over reported. I’d push back to The New York Times, it was not a humanitarian crisis or whatever they reported. They even briefed the president about the situation at Burning Man. We were instructed to shelter in place and not drive, still we had food and water, it was muddy but it really was not that big of a deal. Actually, there was a lot of cooperation and we just waited it out.”
Burr said he’ll return next year, however, due to the possible trash situation after Burners had to exit the desert because of the rain and mud.
“I worried there’s going to an issue with the permit next year,” he said.

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