Post-Burning Man photos are flooding social media as they do after every Labor Day, and this year’s ‘Rogue’ burn drew larger crowds than expected — but also appears to have pissed off a number of Nevada locals.
With Burning Man being cancelled for the second year in a row over COVID-19 concerns, some Burners who do not have COVID-19 concerns organized their own “renegade” Burning Man in Nevada’s Black Desert over the last week. We predicted this could be Woodstock ‘99 on COVID, and the early signs were not good, as a dune buggy accident on the event’s first night indicated that the lack of organized speed limit enforcement could lead to a litany of busted-up Burners needing medical care that a no-infrastructure event could not provide.
Tens of thousands of people keep the Burning Man flame alive in the desert after the annual event was canceled due to COVID https://t.co/sGLYFqfoss— Daily Mail US (@DailyMail) September 6, 2021
And there were a few more serious accidents, but overall, accounts from on the ground indicate the event was not disastrous, and did produce some Burner joy. Law enforcement estimated that between 15,000-20,000 people showed up, but also grumbled about frequent speeding and a displayed "lack of care for fellow participants."
Apparently celebrity Burners Diplo and Paris Hilton rolled in, and as we see from the zillions of photos that have been posted, there was little to no masking or social distancing at the week-long outdoor affair.
Pershing County sheriff Jerry Allen had no kind words for these “Renegade” Burn proceedings, telling the Reno Gazette Journal that it was “people packed in a small space in the heat, no shade or cooling other than nighttime, little respect for your fellow man, and this year add the thick amounts of smoke and no (organized group) to attempt to diffuse situations.”
About 20,000 people are expected on Nevada's Black Rock Desert this weekend for an unofficial Burning Man. Check out the photos: https://t.co/yD8zqDbY4U— RGJ.com (@rgj) September 3, 2021
Allen said there were but three arrests, though another serious accident happened over the course of the week involving a parasailer. “The male subject sustained several broken bones as well as other traumatic injuries,” Allen said. “So far, there is no criminality attached to this incident. It is a medical incident." The unnamed individual was transported via Care Flight to a Reno hospital.
Sheriff Allen may be a little biased, though. He also told the Gazette Journal, “Burning Man brings nothing to Pershing County except for heartache.”
Give those Burners this much: They did put together a pretty sweet drone show to emulate Saturday night's traditional Burning of the Man and the Sunday night's Temple Burn. (Large structures were not permitted by the Bureau of Land Management for this unsanctioned event.) Unconfirmed reports from the private Facebook group Black Rock Plan B said that sheriffs had described “11 accidents in 7 days” as of Monday. There were fewer than expected complaints about poop at this event with no facilities, but a lot more complaints about lost dogs roaming unleashed.
Yes, filthy rich heiress and wannabe DJ Paris Hilton showed up, as she does pretty much every year. (She likes to be around other "creatives" like her, she says.) Diplo’s Instagram has several posts showing he played a sunrise party at the well-heeled camp Robot Heart, where clearly no COVID safety protocols were observed, but at least he didn’t do promotional stunts for Popeye’s chicken sandwich.
“This year there were no porta potties and everyone was expected to bring their own buckets to shit and piss in. There was very little art exhibited beyond the hundreds of art cars and small stages scattered throughout the playa. There was no man. And nothing beyond firewood in elevated fire pits was burned by order of the Bureau of Land Management that oversees the federal land where Burning Man happens each year.”
All the Renegade Burners are crowing and patting themselves on the back today over their “amazing” event, with a sense that they have scored a great victory over the official Burning Man Project — who will now have to negotiate with them on their terms every year going forward, they seem to be saying. This is premature. We still don’t know the condition they left the desert in, and locals in Nevada and Truckee have complained of dust-covered trash left along State Route 447 and in their communities.
And hey, remember COVID-19, the reason they cancelled this thing in the first place? It doesn’t seem like Renegade Burning Man remembered COVID-19 is still a thing. Will this event be a Lollapalooza, which looked like a potential superspreader, but turned out not to be a superspreader? Or will it be the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, which looked like a potential superspreader, and infected its host state of South Dakota with a 700% spike in COVID cases?
We’ll know more about that in 10 days or so, and that’s probably going to determine whether the Rogue Burners burned any goodwill with the Nevada community.
And until then, if you know anyone who went to Renegade Burning Man, maybe ask to see proof of a fresh negative test before spending any time with them in person.
Image: Submitted to SFist anonymously