Tens of thousands watch as Burning Man’s effigy burns to the ground.
Organizers announced Friday evening that the arts festival scheduled to start Aug. 30 in Northern Nevada’s Black Rock Desert would not take place due to global efforts to limit the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
The event draws about 80,000 people to Nevada each year, many of them from other states and countries. Burning Man is a major economic driver for the Silver State, pulling in $60 million each year, according to Burning Man’s own economic analysis.
“After much listening, discussion, and careful consideration, we have made the difficult decision not to build Black Rock City in 2020. Given the painful reality of COVID-19, one of the greatest global challenges of our lifetimes, we believe this is the right thing to do. Yes, we are heartbroken. We know you are too,” a statement on the Burning Man Journal says.
While the event’s main ticket sale was scheduled earlier this month, the San Francisco-based nonprofit initially postponed the sale to buy further time to evaluate whether the event should be canceled. Most tickets to the event cost $475, on top of $140 vehicle passes.
Attendees who purchased tickets through smaller sales earlier in the year will be reimbursed, though the organization pleaded for its followers to make the purchase price a contribution to the organization if they can afford it.
In order to keep the organization afloat, Burning Man Project will have to move forward with “substantial staff layoffs, pay reductions, and other belt-tightening measures,” the Friday statement says. Spokeswoman Megan Miller said the number of layoffs and reductions would depend on how many ticket payments the nonprofit retained and how many contributions the nonprofit receives.
The organization also has a $10 million rainy day fund, according to public tax documents.
The Burning Man Project also noted that it would be continuing the spirit of Black Rock City in the “multiverse,” but it is unclear what that will look like.
The late Larry Harvey and friends started Burning Man on San Francisco’s Baker Beach in 1986 but they moved the event to an area two hours of north of Reno in 1990 after a run-in with the law.
The event, which grew from a few dozen people to tens of thousands, has never been canceled despite monsoon rains, serious injuries and deaths on site and an arson in which the “Man” effigy burned down early one year.
Participants spend approximately $50 million and the organization spends about $10 million in Nevada alone, the Burning Man Project has reported.
Burning Man over the years has enriched not only the economic prosperity of Northern Nevada, but also the cultural fabric, according to EDAWN President and CEO Mike Kazmierski.
“Clearly, the attendees come early, stay late, buy a lot of their supplies here, live in the community and many times they fly in and out of our airport,” Kazmierski said.
A large crowd watched the near-silent ceremonial burning of a temple Sunday night in the Black Rock Desert.
Burning Man is just of one of the major events that has been casualty to the rapid spread of the COVID-19 virus around the world. Other events that have been postponed or canceled include Coachella, South by Southwest music festival, the Olympic Games in Tokyo and professional sporting events worldwide.
Bureau of Land Management officials did not immediately have comment on the cancellation. The BLM, which oversees the event, rakes in several million dollars annually from fees and the largest special recreation permit in the country.
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