Where: Black Rock Desert, Gerlach, Nevada, USA.
The arid land of the Black Rock Desert in northern Nevada gets ignited with finest exhibition of community spirit every year for a one week around & including Labor Day weekend in the United States! A week long annual ‘Burning Man’ event brings life back on otherwise parched land of the Nevada desert. The organizers of the ‘Burning Man’ lay the foundation of a unique ephemeral city named ‘Black Rock City’ which flourishes for a mere one week, but gives the lifetime experience to every soul who dares to survive in the extreme conditions of this dry land!
The attendees of ‘Burning Man’ who prefer to be called themselves as the ‘burners’, join this grand jamboree with different goals such as artwork, community, revelry or decommodification. However, this fete endorses its own revolutionary principles such as community spirit, radical self-reliance, radical self-expression & the most important- the participation!
This grand fair is attended every year by more than 45000 free souls who enjoy every bit of moment they spend in this extravagant city by following 10 most bizarre yet exciting commandments which are the real highlight of this unique event!
Why They Celebrate?
A simple bonfire ritual carried out in 1986 summer solstice by the gang of old folks on Baker Beach in San Francisco laid the foundation of this extravagant fiesta. Larry Harvey is thought to be the father of this event, who, along with his mates Jerry James & others, had burned a 9-foot tall wooden man & a little wooden dog. Harvey had referred this activity as the impulsive act of ‘radical self-expression’!
The ritual then picked up the pace in no time & it gradually took the grandeur form that the celebration has taken today. The wooden effigy which is predominantly called as ‘The Man’ by the burners is the most remarkable feature of this event. The initial attire of ‘the man’ was much smaller in size as compared to its recent gigantic appearances. The current event features elaborately decorated, neon-light clad spectacular effigy that stands tall at the center of the city looking over the week long wild celebration of zestful revelers!
However, due to police interruptions in burning on the beach made the organizers to seek for a new, least populated place for organizing the event. Their hunt for the right place came to an end when they came across a dry, prehistoric lake known as the Playa in Black Rock Desert of Nevada. Since then, the Black Rock City has been making its one week long temporary appearance at Playa that blows up the minds of the burners with its unique revolutionary civil code!
How They celebrate:-
The massive, horse-shoe shaped camping around the neon-clad gigantic effigy offers the center stage to all the actions. No word or the group of words ever can be able to describe the magnificence of this celebration.
Surviving in the bone-drying heat is the first challenge every reveler has to face in here. The scorching heat in this region surges up to 400 C during day time. This scary heat, however, seldom makes any impression on the zest & the energy of the burners. Many artists arrive here from all over the USA with loads of material stuffed into the trucks. They construct myriad interesting sculptures using the material they have in their possession. The constructs range from the mind-blowing floats & holy temples of forgiveness to extra-ordinary ‘mutant vehicles’ which roam freely through the city streets.
The ‘Burning Man’ event organizers & its devoted revelers strictly follow the ten principles originally written by Larry Harvey in 2004 that distinguishes this city from the modern world. Radical inclusion, gifting, radical self-reliance, radical self-expression, decommodification, communal effort, civic responsibility, immediacy, participation & leave no traces are those ten principles which are accepted & appreciated whole-heartedly by all the burners.
As the event strongly promotes the idea of ‘radical self-reliance’, burners are always advised to come well prepared with everything they will need throughout their stay in the city as camp does not allow any shops or stalls for buying anything. Anybody coming unprepared gets tagged as a ‘Sparkle Pony’ & most likely ends up relying on the generosity of the fellow revelers. The organizers forbid the commerce of most of the products in order to justify the principles of radical self-reliance & decommodification. However, on most of the occasions, the ‘Sparkling Pony’ happily survives in the diverse conditions as he receives the helping hand from the fellow noble Samaritans!
The festival strongly supports the principle of ‘Participation’ which encourages every burner to be part of any activity that suits the burner’s taste. Hesitation is something that you better keep outside the gates of this place. An ample number of activities kept happening around at any random time, let it be day or night! All you have to do is keep your inhibitions aside & participate actively if you find something you always dreamt of experiencing. Remember folks; this surreal city believes in one mantra- ‘Do what you love. Love what you do’!
‘Radical self-expression’ is another prime goal of this crazy world. You can dress the way you like, you can make anything you wish & you can express yourself the way you want. Burning man does not impose any sort of restrictions either on your dressings or on your activities. In fact, you may come across people flaunting their bodies in birthday suits. Burning Man organizers will never spoil your parties unless you violate local & federal laws.
The burners prefer bicycles & tricycles for roaming around in the city. No other motorized vehicles except the creatively modified mutant vehicles & emergency vans. Every rider loves to adorn his ride using elaborate patterns over the bicycle’s frame in order to mark his unique identity. Incorporating electroluminescent wires to illuminate the bikes by splendid lighting is preferred as the lighting plays critical role in safety at night. Every night of Burning Man, the dazzling bicycles create spectacular visual impact that blows the minds of burners.
Another bizarre ritual observed here is that, everything except coffee & ice is available for free of cost! You buy drinks, barbeque dishes, pancakes or hit the glitter body-paint shop & nobody will charge you anything. Instead, the receiver always pays back in the form of a return gift. The return gift can be anything, from lending a helping hand to clear the litter or assisting a group to fix the neon lights to adorn either mutant vehicles or camps or sometimes, may be a genuine smile or just a warm shake of the hand seals the deal!
The torching up the effigy is the climax of the festival that justifies its name. The flamboyant festival of this kind comes to an end with the equally magnificent manner. All the monuments, artworks & decorations also get incinerated to stand by another principle- ‘Leave no trace’! The morning following the burning ceremony, literally every single piece of trash is picked up to leave the place as it was before this city could set up here. Whatever comes in should get out of the Playa. It is only the traces of mutant vehicles & bicycles remain here as the testimonial of this grand festival.
This extravagant & surreal festival thus comes to an end & the burners head back to their places with opulent memories of parched Playa, dazzling neon lights, astounding floats, splendid artworks & of course the sleepless nights spent while partying with the truly incredible & wild party animals! Indeed, ‘Burning Man’ festival is something that has to be attended to be believed!