Burning Man Festival

It's where Mad Max meets Woodstock. Experience the week-long, free-spirited Burning Man Festival in Nevada's Black Rock Desert.

Photo By: Charlie Johnston/Nevada Magazine

Photo By: Reuters

Photo By: Victor Grigas, Wikimedia Commons

Photo By: Reuters

Photo By: Nevada Commission on Tourism

Photo By: Nevada Commission on Tourism

Photo By: Reuters

Photo By: Nevada Commission on Tourism

Photo By: Nevada Commission on Tourism

Photo By: Nevada Commission on Tourism

Photo By: Charlie Johnston/Nevada Magazine

Photo By: Charlie Johnston/Nevada Magazine

Photo By: Reuters

The annual Burning Man Festival, held in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert, is a week-long event described as “an experiment in community art, radical self-expression and radical self-reliance.” More than 60,000 free-spirited people converge on the desert to create and display some interesting works of art, including this oversized “Bummer.” 

The art at the Burning Man Festival can be radical. Artists are not quiet about expressing their political views. An artist created this cartoonish replica of U.S. President George W. Bush, portraying him as a liar. This exhibit is part of a larger art installation called Art on the Playa, which allows artists to display their artwork and create special art events and exhibitions all around Black Rock City.

Black Rock Desert is the perfect canvas for some unique art, including Victor Grigras creative sculpture (in the forefront) and an art car that looks similar to a pirate ship (right).

In the middle of all the action, people attending the Burning Man Festival can chill out and take a nap inside the Center Camp Cafe. Center Camp serves as a meeting place for the entire makeshift city. It contains the Cafe, Camp Arctica and a number of other Black Rock City institutions.

For an entire week, people converge on Black Rock Desert to create a unique oasis and metropolis aptly called Black Rock City.

Art projects and quotes inscribed on rocks line Guru Road, a two-lane road located just outside near Black Rock Desert.

Held in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert, Burning Man Festival is an “anything goes” event that’s been described as "Mad Max" meets Woodstock. The festival usually starts on the last Monday in August and ends on the first Monday in September.

In addition to burning a male statue in effigy, the temple (pictured) is also burned -- a regular activity at the event.

Art displays are set up all around Black Rock Desert during the Burning Man Festival. Contrary to what you may think, festival attendees are not inconsiderate hippies. Before everyone leaves, people pitch in to restore the desert back to its original state at the end of the festival. “Leaving no trace” is one of the 10 principles attendees must abide by at the event. Other Burning Man principles include radical inclusion, participation, gifting and civil responsibility.

Burning Man started as a bonfire ritual on the 1986 summer solstice, when Larry Harvey, Jerry James and a few friends met on Baker Beach in San Francisco. The group at the time burned a 9-foot man effigy. It wasn’t until 1990 when Kevin Evans and John Law organized the first Burning Man Festival in Black Rock Desert.

In addition to stationary art, there are a number of artists who build fun, art cars aka motorized mutant vehicles. No, you’re not hallucinating. It’s normal to see a giant red telephone roaming around the desert. Artists must submit designs for their mutant cars in advance. Black Rock City has its own DMV, or Division of Mutant Vehicles, that must approve and inspect all art cars.

Some art cars are extreme -- like this one. In this case, it’s an extravagant, decorated bus with platforms on the sides and on the top -- enough space to carry a festive crowd.

At the end of this free-spirited event, the ceremonial Burning Man effigy is ignited with pyrotechnics. The artsy, male statue has increased in size since the first Burning Man Festival -- from an 8-foot statue to 104-foot statue.

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