Burning Man Festival Remains Virtual for 2021
By Liam Klenk
Across the globe, event organizers are trying to get back to in-person events as soon as possible. Not so the legendary Burning Man festival. The organizers have decided to play it safe and have officially announced the cancellation of their 2021 in-person event. An interactive virtual event will take place August 21 to September 5, but hopes are high to get back to the Nevada desert in 2022.
Burning Man was held for the first time in June 1986. On Baker Beach in San Francisco. A small event organized by Larry Harvey and Jerry James, the builders of the first man.
Since then, the event has grown significantly. It is being held annually, spanning nine days leading up to and including Labor Day.
In 1991, it moved to Black Rock City in northwestern Nevada. A temporary city erected in the Black Rock Desert about 100 miles north-northeast of Reno.
In 2019, 78’850 people traveled to the event from all corners of the world.
Burning Man is a festival focused on community, art, self-expression, and self-reliance.
To be more precise, as outlined by Burning Man co-founder Larry Harvey in 2004, the event is guided by 10 major principles: radical inclusion, gifting, decommodification, radical self-reliance, radical self-expression, communal effort, civic responsibility, leaving no trace, participation, and immediacy.
The name of the festival points to the highlight of the event on Saturday evening before Labor Day: The symbolic burning of a large wooden effigy, referred to as the Man.
On April 10, 2020, the Burning Man festival was cancelled for 2020, due to the Covid19 pandemic. This was the first year Burning Man would not happen since its inception in 1986.
The organizers decided to offer ticket refunds even though their tickets were sold explicitly as non-refundable. This gracious gesture almost brought the organization to its knees financially.
Thankfully, generous donations allowed them to make up for the loss in ticket sales.
On September 7, 2020, an estimated one thousand Burners held a celebration on San Francisco’s Ocean Beach. Despite the high risk of spreading the Covid19 virus.
Mayor London Breed tweeted about the event and said, “This was absolutely reckless and selfish. You are not celebrating. Instead, you are putting people’s lives at risk. You are putting our progress at risk. No one is immune from spreading the virus.”
On April 27, 2021, the 2021 edition of the Burning Man festival was cancelled as well. Still due to the Covid19 pandemic.
Despite progress on vaccination, organizers stated that “uncertainties that need to be resolved are impossible to resolve in the amount of time we have.”
Instead, same as in the year before, the organizers are welcoming their Burners to take part in the Virtual Burn 2021.
The online event will feature six amazing virtual Burning Man experiences during Virtual Burn Week, August 22 – September 7, 2021.
Anybody with an internet connection — anywhere in the world — is invited to participate in the creativity and community. Whether they are dropping in with a VR headset, a desktop computer, or a mobile device.
Burning Man states on their website, “The 165,000 Burners (and Burn-curious) who participated in these experiences in 2020 discovered Burning Man is more than a physical place, it’s an opportunity to engage deeply with others through authentic connections around a shared passion for Radical Self-expression, wherever you live.”
The festival organizers do hope that in 2022 the festival will be back as an in-person event in Black Rock City.
In the words of the Burning Man organizers: “We are all gearing up for a glorious return to Black Rock City in 2022 and have already started the application process with the Bureau of Land Management for our permit. With another year of re-evaluating our systems and concerted planning, together we will co-create the most diverse, inclusive, and environmentally sustainable iteration of Black Rock City yet.”