Burning Man Relocated Due to Coronavirus Pandemic, Will Be Held Online

Nevada's yearly Burning Man gathering is moving out of the desert and onto the internet this year because of the coronavirus pandemic, according to an announcement from Burning Man Project CEO Marian Goodell on Friday.

While considered by some to be a music festival, Burning Man bills itself as a community that builds a temporary city, called Black Rock City, in the Black Rock Desert for roughly a week each August.

"We don't book acts or provide entertainment," says the Burning Man website. "There is no corporate sponsorship. You are entering a 'decommodified' space that values who you are, not what you have. You are expected to collaborate, be inclusive, creative, connective, and clean up after yourself."

In 2020, however, Burning Man is moving to what it refers to as The Multiverse for this year's meeting.

"After much listening, discussion, and careful consideration, we have made the difficult decision not to build Black Rock City in 2020," read a Friday announcement from the Burning Man Project. "Given the painful reality of COVID-19, one of the greatest global challenges of our lifetimes, we believe this is the right thing to do."

"In 2020 we need human connection and Immediacy more than ever," the announcement continued. "But public health and the well-being of our participants, staff, and neighbors in Nevada are our highest priorities."

"The global Burning Man community is resourceful and resilient," said Burning Man Project Director of Communications Megan K. Miller in a statement sent to Newsweek. "Effective immediately we're putting our resources to work to sustain the organization and help drive the community towards ways to help and connect while we deploy tools for that engagement and build for Black Rock City 2021."

"In the Multiverse, Black Rock City exists online, a virtual metropolis waiting for us to come Home," reads the Burning Man website. "We can still build it together, and be together, and Burn together, only digitally instead of in the dust."

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Organizers of the yearly Burning Man event announced Friday that due to the threat of the coronavirus, the 2020 gathering would be held online. Mike Nelson/AFP/Getty

One of the highlights of each Burning Man event has been the burning of an effigy in the form of a human. While the first such effigy constructed in 1986 was 8 feet tall, the one built in 2014 measured 105 feet tall.

While one of the principles that guides Burning Man is to leave no refuse in the desert when the gathering is complete, some have complained that those who attend Burning Man, known as Burners, are leaving too much trash in the desert.

In 2018, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management claimed that one area inspected after the event had seven times more garbage than regulations allowed.

Organizers call Burning Man "the largest Leave No Trace Event in the world." Within 35 days of the end of each event, Burners allegedly remove all garbage and remnants of Black Rock City, including items left behind by other Burners.

"Except for tire tracks and footprints, our policy is to leave the desert as the profoundly barren and empty corner of the world that it is," the website continues.

Burning Man organizers have also filed suit against the BLM, claiming they charge enormous fees to allow Burning Man to hold its events on public lands. Requests for an explanation for those fees have allegedly been denied by the BLM.

According to the lawsuit, the BLM has "severely hampered BRC's [Black Rock City's] ability to make critical plans and budget adequately for its lawfully permitted assembly on public lands."

In a December statement to The Hill, a BLM spokesperson said the cost was a "Special Recreation Permit that includes a commercial use fee."

"As set by regulation," the statement continued, "this fee equals three percent of the adjusted gross income derived from the authorized use, plus any applicable assigned site fee and/or exclusive use fee, as well as cost recovery including application fees."

Updated 11:51 p.m. 04/13/2020: This story has been updated to include a statement from the Burning Man Project.