As the most unique festival in the world approaches, we take a look at the many changes the event went through to get to this stage.
Started on Baker Beach, San Francisco in 1986, Burning Man has made a name the world over for being a truly unique and transformational event. The very fact that the organizers are able to transform an otherwise dry desert area into an area of celebration and freedom is evidence to that. Being around for 30 years, this transformation has applied to the festival itself, going from a small gathering to a full blown village. What has remained is the spirit of rebellion and the celebration of life.
1. Location, location, location.
It all began when Larry Harvey and Jerry James built a human effigy and burnt it on Baker Beach, San Francisco. This act of randomness somehow turned into a turning point in the lives of many. Almost instantaneously, the group of 12 or so tripled in figures as everyone basked in the warmth of the blazing figurine. For the first 5 fledgling years, the duo continued to build the Man and burn it on the beach. It soon outgrew this venue and as Larry and Jerry started taking it more seriously they knew it was time to shift which was when Black Rock City, Nevada came into the picture. The new location not only created a much more authentic vibe for the community surrounding the “movement” but also heightened personal involvement. Over the years, they expanded their area in Black Rock Desert to make way for more people and activities, soon becoming an annual fixture.
2. The inhabitants of the village.
What started as a group of 12 friends to a crowd of 35 on Baker Beach turned into a revolution of sorts. The last year at the beach attracted over 300 people. The same event attracted 67,564 people in 2015. This goes to show how in 30 years, Burning Man has managed to connect with tens of thousands of people. This of course does not take into account the dozens of regional Burning Man events held all over the world which even more people participate in. One thing that has changed considerably is the fact that the original events included middle class folk and hippies while now it seems to have been taken over by Silicon Valley CEOs and the cream of society. This has a lot to do with the pricing, which brings us to our next point.
3. The cost to be a Burner.
While inside the grounds the principles preach decommodification, entry ticket prices have skyrocketed over the years. For this year’s edition, regular tickets costed $424, low income tickets costed $190 and the exorbitant special edition Da Vinci tickets were priced at $1200. Yet all of them sold out months before the actual event.
4. Creative constructions and mood setting music.
While in the beginning, Burning Man only had one effigy that was constructed and burnt every year, as the event grew, so did participation. It was not long before the dusty playa was adorned with mind boggling art installations with each year’s display outdoing the previous one. The music too has always been an integral part of the experience. Organizers have consistently found musicians to volunteer their time and talent and be a part of the Burning Man community.
5. The Burning Man effigy.
The iconic Burning Man effigy was barely two feet taller than its creators the first time around. With a rise in popularity, the figurine grew in size from 15 feet to 40 feet on the beach and this gradual increase continued in the desert with the latest being a whopping 60 feet (69 feet with platform). Despite these changes, they always maintained the triangular shaped head.