As America continues to trend towards more regulations and less fun, it was inevitable that the infamous Burning Man festival in the desert of Nevada would start hitting too many administrative roadblocks to keep operating as it has in the past. Every year the Bureau of Land Management makes more demands from the organizers of the 60,000 person event, and last year the CEO of Burning Man (yes, that’s a real position) got into a public press battle with Nevada over a 9% entertainment tax the event was being hit with.
“That’s the thing right now that makes us look longingly towards Utah or any other state that might not have levied that.” she said. Later in that interview, she added “For the long-term survival of the culture, we are going to need a physical space … We will, as time goes by, find it hard to only be in the Black Rock Desert. We may need to find a place that would allow for infrastructure. I’m certain that’s in our future.”
That place may have been found: Fly Ranch, a 3800 acre plot of land near the Black Rock Desert where Burning Man typically takes place. While the location is close, the land is very different. Fly Ranch contains desert, wetlands, natural springs, and even a geyser. The video Burning Man released featuring these natural marvels is beautiful, but it is also guaranteed to concern Burners whose favorite memories involve riding across the flat playa at night on a bicycle.
The organizers of Burning Man haven’t announced that Burning Man is moving to Fly Ranch, instead painting this as a possible home where Burning Man can exist for longer than ten days. Via their blog:
Why? Here’s the gist of it: Those who have been deeply affected by a Burning Man event or experience have often asked, “How can we bring this beyond the event?” “How can we make this really matter?” And we too have wondered, “What would it mean to have a year-round location beyond the playa? What if we had a place to experiment with and apply the Ten Principles 365 days a year, in addition to the one-week event?”
What we do know is this: Fly Ranch opens the door to new possibilities, new cultural experiments, and art and innovation projects on a scale never before envisioned. We also know that community participation will be essential. Fly Ranch will be a collaborative endeavor requiring a vast array of skills, ideas, and contributions.
Securing a year-round location for decades to come at Fly Ranch is the next step in the grand experiment that is Burning Man.
That sounds great, but behind it sits the specter of change forced upon the event by Nevada and its bureaucrats. In this day and age, you can’t just become the sixth largest city in the state for a week without some serious governmental red tape. The purchase of Fly Ranch gives the Burning Man organization a lot more flexibility to do what it will with it’s own land, and it sends a message to Nevada that they can’t keep shaking the event down for more golden eggs without killing the goose that lays them.
On the other hand, history isn’t full of positive outcomes after a group moves onto a private ranch to get away from government oversight. We’ll have to see what this means for Burning Man in the future, and accept the fact that change is coming whether we want it to or not.