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The Burning Man Festival - Nevada, USA

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Girl asleep at her desk and background transforms into desert

A strange and wonderful event takes place in Nevada. Each year for a week ending with Labor Day (USA)1, thousands upon thousands of otherwise everyday folk are drawn by a mysterious power to the gigantic silt desert known as Black Rock. Here, they shed their outer skin, and make a startling transformation... into what they most desire to be. Leaving the dried husk of society behind them (tucked safely away for the return trip), they venture confidently into the desert to congregate around the icon of their freedom from society - The Burning Man.

The Event

Each year, the Man stands tall upon his pyramid, a symbol of what could be. The festival lasts for a full week underneath the scorching desert sun. By day it is a city that is comparatively quiet compared to its nightlife, which is when it comes alive. Lasers slice through the air above, while the thrumming beat of rave music weaves its way through the night air. Fanciful plumage abounds, each participant trying to be more flamboyant, more creative, more than the previous year. Neon green and orange fish swim through the air in the inky blackness of the desert night, while nearby a flock of electric blue sea gulls wends its way through a crowd of flame-haired vikings.

This will continue for six of the seven days that the Burning Man festival lasts for. It is a statement for the individuality of people, an opportunity for them to be who they want to be, to do what they like, without ridicule. Obviously, this is a ripe opportunity for 20,000 people (the attendance of last year's festival) to go crazy.

The Last Night of the Festival

The event culminates with the burning of a 50 foot tall wooden statue. The crowd will gather, breath abated with anticipation. Adorned with neon lights, they burn it. Then, as the Man begins to unleash his payload of fireworks and incendiaries, the tribe of the Burning Man begins to dance around this blazing shape. A low rumbling emits from the centre of the circle as a few brave volunteers rush forth to pull on the support lines that have held the Man upright for the past week. Each pull weakens the structure, until finally, the Man crashes down amidst a cloud of sparks. Then, all hell breaks loose. After that, it's a blur.

The Next Morning

Something even more remarkable occurs the next morning as each member of the temporary city awakens and begins to walk the desert floor looking for debris and garbage left from the previous night. Leave No Trace is the primary mantra of the Burning Man Festival, and the participants take it very seriously. By the following week, the desert is empty again, save a few brave and hardy souls whose dedication drives them to stay behind, after everyone else has left, and finish the clean up effort. A few months after the festival, not a scrap of paper, feather from a costume, or a single piece of wood is left behind. The desert is renewed, and the Tribe of the Burning Man goes home... to plan for the next year.

1Labor Day is the first Monday in September.

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