As Burning Man leaves desert, growing pains continue

Wed Sep 7, 2011 12:59pm EDT
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By Zelie Pollon

BLACK ROCK CITY, Nev (Reuters) - Organizers of the iconic "Burning Man" celebration began this week to clear the desert of any evidence that 50,000 people had just spent the past week here in a transient, art-filled, makeshift city.

As the anti-establishment arts festival and survival project disappears piece by piece from the white sands of the Black Rock Desert in Nevada, participants and organizers say Burning Man -- which just had its largest week in its 25-year history -- is going through some growing pains as plans to expand its size and scope moving forward over the next year.

"When you have to be accountable and not anonymous, you change the way you act. As it's gotten bigger we've lost some of that," said Katrina Van Merter, 32, of Dallas, attending her sixth Burning Man.

The event is characterized by massive art projects and the namesake burning figure at its close, with participants heading into the desert for a week each year to build a working city from the ground up -- including an airport, a post office, and a security team -- that tries to be devoid of consumerism.

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

Black Rock City LLC announced plans to turn its profit-making enterprise into a nonprofit this year.

Participation was capped at 50,000 people a day per a Bureau of Land Management use permit, said organizers.

Next year they're hoping to up that number, gradually adding 20,000 more people by 2016, said Burning Man communication manager Andie Grace.   Continued...

<p>Kristine Green throws a letter into the fire as the Temple of Transition burns during the Burning Man 2011 "Rites of Passage" arts and music festival�in the Black Rock desert of Nevada, September 4, 2011. More than 50,000 people from all over the world have gathered at the sold out festival which is celebrating its 25th year. REUTERS/Jim Urquhart</p>