Burning Man anti-consumerism celebration goes non-profit

Mon Sep 5, 2011 11:30am EDT
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By Zelie Pollon

BLACK ROCK CITY, Nev (Reuters) - When the 50-foot tall effigy known as "The Man" burned to the ground on Saturday night before tens of thousands of screaming people, it marked a new age for the iconic celebration known as Burning Man.

This year's event, appropriately themed Rites of Passage, begins a shift from a for-profit moneymaker into a not-for-profit with a reach that extends well beyond the strip of desert known as "the playa," Spanish for "beach."

Each year for one week, self-styled "burners" head into the desert of Nevada and build a working city from the ground up -- including an airport, a post office, and a security team -- that tries to be devoid of money and consumerism.

Burning Man started with an 8-foot structure burning on a beach in California around the summer solstice and has morphed into a sophisticated community with year-round projects including solar energy development and a crisis response network.

The only commodities available to purchase are ice and coffee. Organizers point to the absolute lack of corporate logos or brand names anywhere on the playa - in fact many "logos" are (mostly unprintable) plays on well-known brands such as Starbucks.

Asked about reports that Google owner Sergey Brin donated thousands of bicycles to the event, organizers were quick to brush off any implication of corporate sponsorship.

"It was not Google; It was a private individual," organizers said.

Characterized by massive art projects and the namesake burning figure at its close, Burning Man participants aim to leave the desert with no trace that they were ever there.   Continued...

<p>Firefighters stand near the remains of The Man after it was burned during the Burning Man 2011 "Rites of Passage" arts and music festival�in the Black Rock desert of Nevada, September 3, 2011. REUTERS/Jim Urquhart</p>