8.31.2018

Burning Man Festival

Written by: The Law Offices of Garrett T. Ogata

Burning Man is one of the longest running social experiments. Each year, in the late summer, thousands of people gather in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada to form a community focused on self-reliance, self-expression, radical inclusion, community cooperation, civic responsibility, and leaving nothing behind. This has resulted in a unique event with a barter economy, creative events, and massive artwork installations. Keep reading to find out all about the fascinating history of this event.

The Early Beginnings

The festival got its start back in 1986 when Larry Harvey, Jerry James, and a few other friends met to have a beach bonfire on the summer solstice. As part of the celebration, Harvey sculpted an 8 foot tall wooden man and wooden dog that were burned in the evening. Over the next few years, more and more people were invited to these solstice bonfires, and they became a gathering place for artists. However, the beach burn eventually fell afoul of the authorities, and event organizers in 1990 were told that they did not have a permit to burn the effigy. Dan Miller got the idea to take the effigy to Zone Trip No. 4, a separate event being planned in the Black Rock Desert. This worked out well, and after 1990s, burners begin making the trek to Black Rock each year.

The Festival Gets Official

At first, the Black Rock Desert summer event solely grew through word of mouth. There were no required payments, no scheduled performers, and no rules. Anyone who attended was considered to be a participant due to the struggle of surviving the harsh desert. Festival organizers learned from their past clashes with the law, and starting in 1991, they got a legal permit from the Bureau of Land Management to host the event. After years of operating on an invitation based structure, the festival was finally opened to the public in 1996. Following several car crashes that occurred while people were driving between various parts of the camp, the event put a ban on cars. Since then, there has been a flourishing community of slow-moving, decorated vehicles called art cars.

Burning Man’s Popularity Soars

As the festival adjusted to being open to all, it underwent a few changes. Following a few attempts to host it on private property, it finally returned to the Black Rock playa for good. Since then, there have been some further additions to help accommodate the crowds of people. A grid street structure with addresses has been created to make it easier to get around, and a strict speed limit of five miles an hour is enforced. Though many things have changed over the years, the key factors of the festival have remained the same. People create a flourishing community each year, finish off festivities by burning the statue of the man, and then pick up all trash and vanish without leaving a trace.

As Burning Man’s popularity continues to increase, law enforcement presence has also grown. The festival might seem like a place where anything goes, but federal laws about driving under the influence, using illegal drugs, and drinking while under age all still apply. If you or someone you know is facing charges due to the festival, it is important to have an experienced attorney who is familiar with both Burning Man culture and DUI cases. The right Nevada DUI attorney can help you to get the best possible outcome for your case and deal with it as convenient as possible if you were attending the festival from out of state. Contact the Law Office of Garrett T. Ogata today to set up a free consultation.

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