Escaping Suburbia to Burning Man

Believe by Jane Linders

I’d want to attend the Burning Man festival in the Nevada desert for years, but every August work or family obligations prevented me from going. For a Midwestern mother trapped in suburbia, there plenty of obstacles standing between me and Burning Man. Could I talk my husband into going? Could I withstand the rigors of camping in the desert heat and the wild dust storms?

As the saying goes, trying to explain Burning Man to someone who has never been is a bit like trying to explain what a particular color looks like to a blind person. Attracting some 70,000 revelers each year to a dry lake bed more than 100 miles from the nearest shopping mall, Burning Man is an anarchic art party for freewheeling nonconformists, artists, and ravers from around the world. It might best be described as a combination of Halloween, New Year’s Eve, Mardis Gras and the Apocalypse all rolled into one weeklong party.

The collection of campsites and works of art created by Burning Man participants is called Black Rock City, and at its center is a huge statue of a man, built of wood and neon, that is set ablaze on Saturday night.

Black Rock City is reborn each year as revelers rebuild the community from scratch, but for that one week, it becomes the 7th largest town in Nevada, complete with radio stations, libraries, a bowling alley, churches, bars, and a post office. Hundreds of campsites, many of which are created around oddball themes, partially surround the wooden statue, known as the Man. My favorite theme camp was called Barbie Death Camp and Wine Bistro, which consisted of thousands of Barbie dolls scattered across the desert floor in various stages of torture. Barbie nailed to a cross, Barbie hung from the gallows, Hundreds of Barbies being forced at GI Joe gunpoint into an easy bake oven. Visitors were offered award-winning Napa Valley Chardonnay from pink paper Barbie cups. Niiiiice!

Burning Man was challenging, spiritual, exhausting and invigorating and it was just what I needed.