The organizers of Burning Man announced on Friday that they will not be assembling 80,000 people in the Nevada desert this summer to build giant works of art and then set them on fire.
Instead, due to an ongoing global pandemic, they will hold a “Virtual Burning Man”, which they hope will attract 100,000 participants.
“On a virtual playa, there’s no limit to who can participate,” the group said. The virtual event will be ticketed, but a price has not been announced.
The cancellation of the giant art and music event, which has been held for three decades, will require “substantial staff layoffs, pay reductions, and other belt-tightening measures”, the Burning Man organization announced on its website. It is also likely to have a serious economic impact on the state of Nevada, where Burning Man is held each year in the remote Black Rock Desert.
The event brings Nevada $60m each year, according to Burning Man’s own economic analysis, the Reno Gazette-Journal reported.
“Yes, we are heartbroken. We know you are too,” the group said in a statement, but cited concerns over “public health and the well-being of our participants, staff, and neighbors in Nevada”.
Burning Man, which started out as a gritty, counterculture experiment, has become an increasingly global and celebrity-studded event, drawing DJs, tech executives, hedge fund managers, and wealthy partygoers from Europe and around the world. In the time of coronavirus, a gathering of thousands in a temporary tent city, in an empty stretch of desert where there is no running water and virtually no soap, was an obvious public health concern.
For buyers who purchased tickets early, Burning Man will offer refunds of its $475 tickets and $140 vehicle passes to the weeklong event. But the organization is asking ticket buyers to donate the funds to the organization if they are able to afford to do so, to help the organization survive into the next year.