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Burning Man: What is it, exactly?

Burning Man kicks off on Monday. Here's a list of frequently asked questions about this annual celebration of free expression and self reliance.


Burning Man festivalgoers gather at sunrise in front of the Temple during the 2008 Burning Man Arts and Culture Festival in Nevada's Black Rock Desert.

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Q: What is Burning Man?

A: If you have to ask, you'll never know.

Q: Seriously, what is it?

A: It's a weeklong annual festival held in Nevada's Black Rock Desert. Some 50,000 people gather to create Black Rock City, a temporary 1.5-square-mile settlement dedicated to self expression and radical self reliance. Burners, as participants are known, dress up in costumes, dance around, show off their artwork (whatever form that may take), make friends, and hang out together in the desert. A week later, they depart, ostensibly without leaving a trace.

Q: How did it get started?

A: It started in 1986, with 20 people gathering on San Francisco's Baker Beach for the Summer Solstice. Artist Larry Harvey and his friend Jerry James erected an 8-foot wooden human effigy, which they then lit on fire. By 1989, more than 300 people convened to watch the Burning Man, as police attempted to break up the gathering. After that, they moved to the desert.

Q: Isn't it hot in the desert?


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