Burning Man is a festival that happens every year at Black Rock Desert in northern Nevada, in the United States. It lasts a week, and it starts on the last Monday in August, and ends on the first Monday in September (which is also Labor Day in the U.S.). The festival is called Burning Man because a large wood sculpture of a man is set on fire on Saturday. The festival has been happening every year since 1990. Many people go to Burning Man; in 2012, over 55,000 people were there. The Black Rock desert is far from any cities or towns, and is very dry, so people who go to Burning Man have to bring their own water, food, and shelter.
Burning Man started in 1986 in San Francisco. An artist named Larry Harvey made a 9-foot tall (2.7 m) wooden sculpture of a man, and decided to burn it at a nearby beach as a bonfire for Summer Solstice. It was a success, so he did it again at the beach the next year, and then again a couple years after that. Each year the sculpture was made bigger. In 1987 “the Man” was almost 15 feet (4.6 m) tall, and in 1989 it was almost 40 feet (12 m) tall.
In 1990, the police stopped Harvey from burning the Man because Harvey did not have a permit. Around the same time, two people named Kevin Evans and John Law were planning a group trip to a dry lake, called The Playa, in the Black Rock Desert. They were members of a group of Dadaists named the Cacophony Society. Harvey decided to take the sculpture, which had been taken apart, to the desert to be burned. Since that time the festival has happened in the desert.
John Law knew how to make neon signs, so starting in 1991 neon lights have been added to the Man.
One of the members of the Cacophony Society is named Michael Mikel, who uses the name “Danger Ranger”. He was worried about people getting lost in the desert, which can be very dangerous. He started a group named the Black Rock Rangers to help keep people safe, and to help break up conflicts.
Starting in 1991, Harvey got a permit from the Bureau of Land Management (who take care of land owned by the US government) to hold the festival. The festival was becoming more popular every year. In 1991 about 250 people were there. In 1995 about 4,000 people were there, and in 1997 it was about 10,000. In 2000 attendance was about 25,000, and by 2010 it had reached over 50,000 people. The festival has become so large, sometimes it is called Black Rock City because it is like a small city.
- Radical Inclusion – everyone is welcome.
- Gifting – people should give gifts to each other without asking for anything in exchange.
- Decommodification – people should not let money get in the way of having an experience.
- Radical Self-reliance – people at Burning Man should try to take care of themselves and not ask others to take care of them.
- Radical Self-expression – everyone should share what makes him or her special.
- Communal Effort – people at Burning Man should cooperate to make the festival good and safe.
- Civic Responsibility – people should be good citizens
- Leaving No Trace – people should clean up after themselves. After they leave there should not be any sign they were there.
- Participation – Everyone should join-in and not just watch.
- Immediacy – People should not let things stop them from learning about themselves.
Everyone who goes to Burning Man must have a ticket. Tickets must be bought before the festival starts.
Burning Man is designed for pedestrians and people on bicycles. Most cars can only be used for entering or leaving the festival. Because there have been many car accidents in the past, cars are only allowed to go 5 miles per hour.
Money is only allowed for a few things at Burning Man. It can only be used to buy ice, to buy coffee and other drinks, to pay for recreational vehicle services, to pay for emergency services like an auto mechanic or a locksmith, and a few other things.
Many artists choose to show their art at Burning Man. Because the dry lake where the festival happens is so empty, it is like a white canvas.
Every year since 1996 Harvey has chosen a theme, which is a word or idea that some of the artists use as part of their artwork. For example, in 2011 the theme was “Rites of Passage”, while in 2013 the theme was "Cargo Cults".
People who want to bring motor vehicles to drive around while at Burning Man must get permission before they arrive. The group that gives permission is called the "Department of Mutant Vehicles”, or DMV. The cars, trucks, and buses must be changed to look very different from normal. These are called Mutant vehicles. Mutant vehicles often have complicated lights. Some mutant vehicles have loudspeakers for playing music, and some have flames and other pyrotechnics.
The city that is built for the festival is named Black Rock City, or BRC for short. Because it is so big, some volunteers start building about 3 weeks before the festival starts. Some people also stay as long as 4 weeks after to clean-up and take everything apart. 
The city has streets which are planned in the shape of a clock. There are streets that go towards the Man, which are named after times on a clock (12:00, 12:30, 1:00, and so on). There are also streets that curve in a circle around the Man. These streets are given new names every year. The area closest to the Man doesn't have any buildings or tents. This area only has different works of art. The street that runs along the inside of the circle surrounding the Man is called the Esplanade.
A small airport is also built every year, away from the rest of the city.
The Sierra Club has said that all of the cars and trucks coming and going to the desert produces too much carbon dioxide gas, which causes global warming. A group of people at Burning Man started a group called Black Rock Solar. This group built solar panels for schools in a nearby town, so that less carbon dioxide needs to be produced.
- Doherty, Brian (2006). This Is Burning Man. Benbella Books. ISBN 978-1-932100-86-0.
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- "Black Rock City Vehicle Protocols". Black Rock City LLC. Retrieved 2013-01-03. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- "Frequently Asked Questions: Preparation". Black Rock City, LLC. Retrieved 2013-01-03. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
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