They say bad luck comes in threes. This year Burning Man faced an unprecedented closure on Monday and Tuesday, followed by an unfortunately fatal art car accident on Thursday.
It seemed like Burning Man might have sneaked home past the nasty Third Fate. The Diplo/Skrillex incident picked up a lot of press attention worldwide, but it was hardly a headache for BMOrg. Just more free publicity, and maybe even further justification for Larry Harvey’s ban on music guides. Exodus was one of the smoothest ever, with almost no significant delays reported by Burners. More than 10,000 people left the festival before the Man burned, and the official population cap was down from the previous year, keeping the BLM happy.
Alas, ’twas not to be. The mainstream media is reporting on the danger of a potential outbreak of the lethal West Nile Virus, which yesterday killed a man in Long Beach. Officials say anyone who attended Burning Man this year could have been exposed to the virus.
Mosquito traps set near Gerlach just before the annual Burning Man counter-cultural festival have tested positive for West Nile Virus, the Washoe District Health Department reports.
The traps were checked Aug. 22 and were sent to the state lab on Aug. 25 and they got the state results on Tuesday, said health department spokesman Phil Ulibarri.
On Aug. 6, the health department announced it found the West Nile Virus in the Kiley Ranch area of Spanish Springs, the first West Nile Virus case this year in Washoe County.
The Gerlach General Improvement District will take measures this week to kill the mosquitoes, Ulibarri said.
“We decided to help them with surveillance this year,” Ulibarri said. “We didn’t have the funding to go out there and do abatement.”
A person has tested positive for West Nile Virus in Clark County this summer. Nevada health officials have identified positive mosquito pools in Clark, Washoe, Elko and Mineral County, the county health department said. With so many pools with the virus, the state said other West Nile Virus cases are expected in humans.
RENO, Nev. (MyNews4.com & KRNV) — For the second time this year, mosquito samples in the Washoe County area have tested positive for the West Nile virus.
The Washoe County Health District says mosquitos caught in nine traps that were set in the Gerlach area tested positive for the virus.
The health district says this is the first time they’ve set mosquito traps in the Gerlach area. As a precaution, officials say anyone who attended the Burning Man Festival could have been exposed to the virus.
Gerlach does border the Black Rock Desert, but officials say the chances of mosquitoes traveling from Gerlach onto the playa is minimal.
The first human case of the West Nile virus in Nevada this year was reported in Clark County Wednesday afternoon — but officials say it’s not a very common virus.
“West Nile virus is very serious, but people need to know only about one percent of those people bitten by mosquiotes that carry West Nile Nirus will become seriously ill. Seventy to eighty precent of people bitten by mosquito with West Nile will show no signs … or any symptoms,” said Washoe County Health District, Communications Manager Phillip Ulibarr
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 70 to 80 percent of victims do not show the usual symptoms of fever, headache, vomiting or rash, but no one from the festival has tested positive just yet.
Nine people have died from West Nile in Nevada this year, with 129 total cases confirmed.
There is no known cure for the infection.
The Gerlach General Improvement District is seeking to eliminate the virus by hunting down all infected mosquito traps beginning this week.
Mosquito traps in three other Nevada counties have also tested positive for the virus, and more human cases are expected to emerge.
Normally the Playa is not a place where you need to worry about mosquitos, but the large amount of rain this year may have encouraged their spread. The world is on heightened alert for bio-disasters as international health authorities scramble to contain an outbreak of another deadly virus, Ebola.
[Update 9/5/14 9:25am]
KOLO TV has a video story, they say that 6 traps in Gerlach initially tested positive, then all 9 did.
Huffington Post says there’s no reason to be alarmed, because a local press person said it was fine.
just because West Nile was detected in Gerlach doesn’t mean it made its way to your painted van. The Huffington Post reached out to Washoe County press contact Phil Ulibarri who verified that, despite the positive traps in Gerlach, there is no chance the Burning Man desert was infected. “Zero,” he said when asked about the odds of such an occurrence.
So there you have it. The slowly gentrifying hippie-fest, while potentially still your worst nightmare, was at least not infected with a deadly mosquito virus.
HuffPo does not share with us Ulibarri’s qualifications as a virologist. The same spokesperson admitted to the RGJ that they lack funding to do an adequate study. If it helps you sleep at night, believe them, but if you have any of the symptoms, we suggest you get them checked out, just in case.
anyone who was at Burning Man and may have been bitten needs to be on the lookout for symptoms. As Mic notes, those include fever, headache, vomiting or a rash, however 70 to 80 percent of those infected are asymptomatic. Only about 1% of people develop serious symptoms, like meningitis or encephalitis, and those most at risk are people with cancer, diabetes, hypertension, or kidney disease.
[Update 9/5/14 1:12pm]
Alayna’s friend is being treated for suspected West Nile virus after returning from the Burn:
Friend returning from the burn is being treated right now for west Nile but waiting on spinal tap results to confirm….flu symptoms followed by sudden seizures….So it may or may not be a real concern to most, but be aware of your body’s signals, if you are sick go to the doctor to be safe. Could be a coincidence but i figure it can’t hurt to be extra cautious
On Facebook Pip Squeek from Vegas has said she has been confirmed with West Nile virus, and came down with its symptoms right after returning from the Burn. There is no other confirmation of this yet:
I have been confirmed for West Nile, though not confirmed that’s where it came from. I got sick about 24 hrs after returning from the Burn. I as pretty near death and it was horrifying. Please don’t just shrug this off. Get medical attention if you start to have symptoms of meningitis. I have reported to the CDC so we will see where this goes
I’m sure your time out in Black Rock City was nothing short of stupendous. Having the Burners from around the world all congregate in Reno afterwards to cooldown before they head back to the default world is almost as fun as Burning Man itself! Here is rundown of the hotel situation in Reno right now (as of 5:00pm, August 31st), so you don’t have to run around, get frustrated and end up sleeping spread over two porch chairs
In case you missed it, we put this together for the stranded Burners last Monday about restaurants, bars, shopping, etc isHERE
If you didn’t hear, there is a giant rib festival in Sparks (which you drive right through heading west as you come into Reno on Sunday and Monday. The Best in The West Rib Cook-Off is a huge street festival featuring BBQ fanatics and connoisseurs from around the United States squaring off the the title “Best in The West.” The food and people watching is normally top-notch. At the very least, go buy a ton of BBQ sauce you won’t find in your hometown stores to take home with you.
TUESDAY: Thievery Corporation is playing with a full band at the Grand Sierra Resort with Mark Farina and Dirtwire as part of the 5th Annual Great Depressurization Chamber. Grand Sierra is without question always the spot for post-BRC. It’s definitely a great “last hurrah” to gather everyone in one spot to dance to one of the most incredible and influential musical acts of all time. Tickets available HERE. Afterparty features Rob Garza of Thievery, jackLNDN, Miss Cooper and Her Pet Craigslist Hookup and more at the stunning new LEX Nightclub. Plus five four-star restaurants, cafe, spa, driving range and 24 hour bowling, to name a few things.
Here’s a little rundown on the hotel room situation in Reno for Sunday, Monday and Tuesday (Wednesday all hotels have availability). Please remember though….people cancel rooms, so always worth it to call even if we say it’s sold out here. (this was compiled on August 31st, at 5:00pm)
• Grand Sierra Resort has the beautiful Summit Rooms available still. Use code BURN14 for rooms starting at $200.00. This includes free access to the pool party. DJ Dan and more play at LEX Nightclub at 10pm for small cover and no dress code. Standard Rooms are sold out.
• Grand Sierra Resort has their beautiful Summit Rooms available still, as well as Summit Rooms. Use code BURN14 for rooms starting at $109.00. This includes free access to the pool party. Line-up HERE, and Thievery Corporation, Mark Farina and Dirtwire are in the Summit Pavilion. Rob Garza, jackLNDN and more play the after party in LEX. TICKETS AND INFO HERE
Forget Burning Man today, people. It’s closed, and not expected to re-open until tomorrow morning at the earliest. Time to make the most of Reno instead. Reno hotels are offering room discounts to Burners, see here.
11:05 a.m. update: Rain has closed the gates to Burning Man and they will continue to be closed through the evening, event organizers have said in a tweet.
While at least hundreds entered the gates of the annual counterculture event on Sunday and before rains poured through today, it’s estimated that thousands are on the outside looking in because of the dangers wet playa poses to vehicles, even bicycles.
“Playa out there is mucky, muddy stuff. With rain attached to it, people get stuck everywhere,” Nevada Highway Patrol Trooper Dan Lopez said. Burning Man’s traffic twitter account says the gates will be closed through tonight and possibly tomorrow morning.
10:55 a.m. update: Reno Gazette-Journal videographer Liz Margerum is stuck in traffic about three miles away from the Burning Man gate. She said an official for the U.S. Bureau of Land Management told her that everyone in line must return to Reno.
“Both sides of the road are like a parking lot,” Margerum said.
Matt Woodhill from San Francisco said, “It’s a great opportunity to be with adversity. And I think it will bring us all closer together once we get in and get over our angst. We have no idea where to go. It would be good info. We have good friends and hope to meet up with them safe.”
10:53 a.m. update: Burning Man has announced that Burning Man has been closed through tonight and possibly into Tuesday morning. Traffic is being turned back at Wadsworth.
Black Rock radio report they expect to lose power and will stop broadcasting.
It’s raining on the Black Rock Desert and Burning Man has asked people to stop driving out to the playa.
“Rain continuing. Please do not come to Burning Man until you hear otherwise from official channels,” Burning Man announced in one Tweet.
“Gate Road unlikely to open anytime in the next 4 hours. Stay in Reno please,” the counter-culture festival said in another Tweet just before 8 a.m.
There have been some minor thunderstorms in the area with an increased chance of storms later in the day, National Weather Service meteorologist Shane Snyder said.
“There are no intense thunderstorms yet, but they seem to be increasing,” Snyder said. “Things are starting to pop up as the day goes along.”
The thunderstorms looming today are what Snyder called “garden-variety type thunderstorms.”
The good news is that after today, Burning Man looks dry for the rest of the week.
“The rain is done, but we could have some winds kick up towards Saturday,” Snyder said.
Get updates from Twitter @bmantraffic @burnersdotme and listen live at BMIR and iHeartRadio.
We’ve been informed that the Grand Sierra Resort in Reno is offering a 50% room discount to Burners. Use code BURN14. Other hotels are also offering special deals for Burners, see here.
This UStream screen capture shows what the situation was like before they shut power down. BMIR kept transmitting for a while but they have gone off air too.
[Update 8/25/14 12:07PM]
Burner Paul is on the Playa and has an Internet connection. He sent the photo below. He says:
I’m here now and the storm is terrible…crazy loud thunder and non stop rain. Ive been unable to leave my tent for the last few hours lol!
[Update 8/25/14 12:54pm]
Official word from @burningman is the gate will be closed until at least midday Tuesday. We imagine the line to get in then will be rather long. Some estimates have 10,000 people currently in line at the gate.
Although there has been no word on the official Burning Man social media channels for 8-9 hours, BMIR let slip that the gate was open – then didn’t mention it again. Cars were seen on UStream driving into Black Rock City. A few Burners between Gerlach and the gate have reported that cars are now moving again. Peter Hirshberg told us:
“Gate is open. The road blocks are still in force, but being stood down town by town heading south. Here in empire we are being told that the highway patrol will give us the go signal within the hour. As the backlog clears, towns further south will open . We’re being told not to proceed until the highway patrol says go, Or “you’ll be turned back as a matter of policy” The whole thing looks pretty well coordinated between bmorg and law enforcement .”
[Update 8/26/14 10:31am}
Gates are open.
Airport will be open at noon today.
9 o’clock area of the city is full. There is still room available on the 3 o’clock side to camp.
In recent years, the airport has taken to displaying Burning Man-style art and offering a welcome table to festival attendees. Once, the airport held a celebratory parade throughout the terminals, complete with small art cars and performers.
“Every single seat we have coming into this airport the weekend before will be filled and every single seat we have leaving on the departure weekend will be filled,” Kulpin says. He estimates that the airport reaps $10 million a year from Burning Man-bound flyers.
…Similarly lively scenes unfold elsewhere in Reno, and everywhere along the route to Burning Man’s ephemeral “Black Rock City”: lines of filled-to-the-brim cars tangle around gas stations, grocery stores are emptied of their bottled water, and parking lot marketplaces pop up to hawk duct tape, hats, and other gear in high demand.
These pit stops, hotel stays and last-minute purchases equal $35 million spent by Burning Man participants—“Burners,” for the uninitiated—in Nevada each year. Sixty-six percent of respondents in the 2013 Burning Man census (yes, it has a census) reported spending more than $250 in the state on their way to and from the event. Eighteen percent spent more than $1,000…“This event has a huge, month-long, positive impact on our local economy,” says John Slaughter, county manager for Washoe, which includes everything from Reno to the closest towns to the event, the 200-person-each desert settlements of Gerlach and Empire. “Our stores, restaurants, gas stations, and car washes see an incredible influx of traffic, providing a great boost to the Northern Nevada economy.”
Larry Harvey, CPO (Chief Philosophy Officer) says:
Burning Man is like a big family picnic. Would you sell things to one another at a family picnic? No, you’d share things…
The curious fact that a lot of money goes into creating a week that is free of money is not lost on Harvey. But those who peg this as a contradiction, he says, misunderstand the intent of the experiment.
“People get confused sometimes,” says Harvey, who unleashed Burning Man on the world with a foretelling bonfire at San Francisco’s Baker Beach in 1986. “They say that because we have a principle of decommodification, that we’re against money. But no, it’s not really about money. It would be absurd if we said we repudiated money. In order to assemble a city, we have to use market economics.”
So, what IS the intent of the experiment? To learn more about market economics? Or to use market economics, like crowd-sourcing, and peoples’ innate desire to contribute to their community, in order to redistribute money from the Burners to the owners?
“People give because they identify with Burning Man, with our city, with our civic life,” he says. “The idea of giving something to the citizens of Black Rock City has enormous appeal to them because it enhances their sense of who they are, and magnifies their sense of being. That’s a spiritual reward.”
He says gifting—defined as the act of giving without the expectation of anything in return—alters the notion of value.
“What counts is the connection, not the commodity,” Harvey says.
If it’s an experiment in giving, you’d think after 30 years BMOrg would have learned to be better at giving. In fact the new Burning Man Project appears to be worse at that (6% giving), than their previously very disappointing Black Rock Arts Foundation (25% giving).
If spiritual reward is the intent of the experiment, then why have the ticketing system? Why not just sell tickets, and make participation the spiritual reward? Making people wait in STEP for months, then at the last minute deciding to sell thousands of tickets in a lottery instead of to the queue, is not nurturing to peoples’ spirits.
Is it an experiment in morality?
painting by Todd Berman
As Burning Man culture and ethos seep out into what the community refers to as the “default world,” can a gifting economy survive the transfer?
“The term ‘gift economy’ is and isn’t an oxymoron. Certainly, the world couldn’t be run through a gift economy,” Harvey says.
“It doesn’t actually generate wealth, the vast majority of which comes from outside Burning Man in the form of campers, tents, generators, and loin cloths,” he writes.
“Nobody makes it to and from Burning Man without either a day job or the [labors] of people who have day jobs,” he goes on. “We’re nowhere close to describing, exhibiting, or participating in an ‘economy’ that truly relies on gifting. … What we do have is a compelling gift ‘culture’—and it matters.”
It matters, says Harvey, because it has potential to provide a meaningful counterpoint to the “default world’s” system.
“That spirit, if spread in the world and widely adopted, would condition how people, as consumers in the marketplace, behave,” Harvey says. “Whereas if all of your self worth and esteem is invested in how much you consume, how many likes you get, or other quantifiable measures, the desire to simply possess things trumps our ability or capability to make moral connections with people around us. There should be room in the world for both systems to flourish. If they did, they would inform one another.”
Perhaps someone should inform the Nevada authorities who think Burning Man is not a suitable event for children, that actually this is a moral experiment. We’re making room in the world for more authentic moral connections: with nudity, drugs, polyamory, and dubstep. We give more to art, than your local church gives to the needy. Therefore our experiment proves the superior morality of our shirt-cockers and Critical Tits.
The Atlantic featured the Generator in Reno, which is funded to the tune of $330,000 a year – we understand, almost entirely by a wealthy private donor.
Crowdsourcing effectively removes the power from large money groups to decide what gets made and what doesn’t,” says Matt Schultz, the artist behind several behemoth Burning Man pieces, of the crowd-funding phenomenon. “It enables the power of individuals to decide. It allows us to find the resources we need to make something amazing. It democratizes the act of production.”
Schultz and his team, the Pier Group, first made waves at Burning Man with a 300-foot-long wooden pier-to-nowhere in 2011 that cost $12,500 to build. They returned with the pier in 2012—this time with a life-size, $64,000 Spanish galleon sinking at the end of it. They outdid themselves once again this year, both in size, scope, budget and fundraising abilities: The group’s 72-foot-tall wooden sculpture, called Embrace, has been, perhaps, the most buzzed-about piece in the lead-up to this year’s festival. Picture two entwined figures proportional to the Statue of Liberty bursting, mid-waist from the ground.
The sculpture, which took shape in a Sparks, Nevada, warehouse with the help of around 200 volunteers, had a budget of $210,000. Its 140,000 pounds of wood, alone, required more than $70,000, says Schultz.
…The hope at The Generator is, Schultz says, at “to refine the economic principles of what a gift economy is and what a decommodified, year-round space is.”
There are various challenges with this. Everything is easier when there’s an expiration date, for example.
“At Burning Man, your social interactions are for a week and you go home and reset,” he says. “There aren’t as many social repercussions. If you make your camp neighbor mad, they are only mad for a week. That’s been a challenge in bringing the principles to the real world.”
Unattainable as a true gifting economy might be, Schultz, like Harvey, believes it’s a custom worth incorporating into existing practices.
“We’re trying to find a way to make capitalism more equitable,” Schultz says. “Instead of saying one system is bad, or another is bad, we’re finding ways to make it function for more people.”
Burning Man’s economic system makes capitalism function for more people. Umm, how, exactly? By burning statues in the desert? By sending threatening legal letters to anyone trying to make money off the Burner ecosystem? By telling people who spend their own money on art cars, that their vehicle is now a “public conveyance” and they must drive randoms around or they risk being deported? By putting all the rights to monetize photos and videos in the hands of a small, secretive private company, that shares not a single cent with the artists?
There must be something I am missing about this “new” economy. Either that or the artists involved are missing the point: they exist purely on the largesse of people so wealthy that they can just give their money away for the sake of week-long temporary art. Even if the extent of your giving for the entire week was only $20, that’s more than 99% of society are handing out to people sleeping in the streets or giving to wildlife habitat preservation. The cause you are supporting with a gift at Burning Man is decadence and self-indulgence, not alleviating the suffering of others.
Larry reveals some of their “plan for a century” thinking:
“Right now we’re thinking we could go to 100,000 if logistics pan out”, Harvey says. “When people say ‘What if we get too big?’ I ask them, ‘[Too big] for what?’ They are worried we’ll become inauthentic. Because in their experience, when something gets bigger and bigger and bigger, it is alienated from its audience. But that’s if it’s just an item for consumption. They’re afraid it will be denatured by size. But it’s not about size. It’s not a quantitative problem. It’s a qualitative question.”
“I hope that I can leave this world knowing that the event in the desert isn’t the lynchpin and that, if it were removed, it would falter,” Harvey says. “My biggest fear is that [the event] would be the be all and end all. We are racing to make it otherwise. It is going to be Rome to the empire, as it were—the great capital city for some time to come. But we can already see [a life outside of it] in these larger regional events.”
It is through this dissemination that Burning Man’s economic principles could take root.
“We don’t think the world can be Woodstock,” he says. “Who’d think the world could be a perpetual carnival? But we do think that the world could rediscover values that used to be automatically produced by culture but aren’t anymore because culture is subject to the commodification in our world. Everything is sold back to us, targeted to demographics. What we have to do is make progress in the quality of connection between people, not the quantity of consumption.”
That’s why BMOrg has to make the party bigger. To improve the quality of connection between the 40% Virgins their bizarre and convoluted ticketing system seems to throw up every year, and the 30% of their crowd who’ve been more than twice. Because everybody says “Burning Man sucked when it was smaller”.
Gift me your money, and I’ll tell you that you’re making the world a better place.
[Update: 8/18/14] The Reno-Gazette Journal has also done some number crunching on what Burning Man means to the local economy.
Last year, nearly 70,000 people traveled into Nevada for Burning Man. Throughout Reno and Fernley, burners could be found shopping in grocery and retail stores, frequenting restaurants and buying supplies before their weeklong stay in the Black Rock Desert.
According to the Burning Man organization, the annual event brings in tens of thousands of people and millions of dollars to Northern Nevada, with 52,000 people and an estimated $44 million in economic impact in 2012, and more than 68,000 people and an estimated $55 million in 2013.
The organization says it spends more than $5 million annually in Nevada on production and planning, law enforcement, emergency services, construction materials, toilets, labor and supplies, and on business trips throughout the year.
Burning Man also reports the organization donated more than $585,000 from ice sales to charities and organizations in Northern Nevada, including nearly $66,000 in 2012 to Pershing County charities, including Pershing General Hospital, Marzen House Museum, Lovelock Food Bank, Safe Haven Rescue Zoo and the Chamber of Commerce.
…Bonnenfant said the center has taken the Reno-Sparks Convention and Visitor Authority figures on visitors and their spending and estimated what Burning Man participants’ spending would average.
If the RSCVA estimates a visitor spends $85 per day in food and drink, he said he would estimate Burning Man participants are spending $50 a day based on the remote desert location of the event.
He said it is unknown how many Burning Man attendees stay at commercial lodging, or for how long, after the event.
It’s these gaps in the data that make it hard to calculate what that total impact is on the region, he said.
Bonnenfant reports that one slice of usable data within the 2011 Burning Man survey is that 21 percent of attendees arrived by airplane.
He said 21 percent of 2011’s population of 53,963 would equal 11,332 visitors to the area. Multiply that by an estimated $400 spent in food and drink, and that would equal $4.5 million in impact just for that slice of burners.
There are caveats to the estimated spending because not all participants stop in Nevada to buy food or lodging. And while many are buying gas within the state, most of the return to Nevada is via gas taxes which are applied to state roads and road construction and the rest of the profits would go to corporate owners.
…”Our community went from, ‘What is that going on in the desert?’ to embracing the concept of being the base camp of Burning Man — where people stop, shop, eat and play — and incorporating it as part of what we are,” Kazmierski said. “It’s a fundamental change as Burning Man has more and more of an influence on our community.”
Kazmierski said people are noticing a change in Reno when they visit. He has had executives tell him they are amazed at the differences in Reno’s culture and growth. The traffic that migrates through Reno during Burning Man gives business leaders a chance to see where Reno is heading and what the city has to offer.
…Fernley Mayor LeRoy Goodman said that throughout the years, Fernley has watched Burning Man grow from a few thousand to 60,000 people and with it a major economic spike in the community’s restaurants and stores two weeks before and after.
“It’s about a month that our community is benefiting economically,” he said. “My view is positive. They spend money here — Indian taco and water stands — I think people in the community look forward to it. The week after Labor Day, they look forward to seeing people. They stop in the same places, eat here and get cleaned up, and I think that’s neat.”
He said the influx of tens of thousands of burners through Reno and Fernley is not only good for the economy, it’s good exposure to what the region’s business and communities have to offer.
“When you’re coming from all over the world to Reno, you can take advantage of the eclectic businesses. Burner week is becoming like the Kentucky Derby and party for a few days in Reno — even if people aren’t going to Burning Man,” he said. “We are getting more and more traffic through here — spending the night in our hotels and shopping and participating in things — and it’s good for Fernley and all of Western Nevada.”
The details of the charity donation from the ice sales is an update from previous reports. If true, the $585,000 cash paid to Nevada charities is up substantially from $159,850 in 2010 which was split with many California based charities. It confirms our calculation that ice sales were above $1 million.