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Tens of thousands flock to Burning Man Festival

The pilgrimage has begun as tens of thousands of “Burners” make their way to Nevada’s Black Rock Desert for an annual crusade dedicated to promoting community, art, self-expression, and self-reliance.

The Burning Man Festival kicks off Sunday, Aug. 30, through Monday, Sept. 7.

Organizers say the Burning Man Festival will bring experiences to people in grand, awe-inspiring and joyful ways that lift the human spirit, address social problems and inspire a sense of culture, community and personal engagement.

Longtime burner and local resident, John Pawlak, noted the “happening” allows individuals to interact in ways rarely seen in more traditional societies.

“I go there for the art and to find myself,” he said. “You can also meet people from around the world at the event. In the past, I’ve met some fantastic people. I have a good friend from Zurich, Switzerland as well as France. You get to meet people from all around which is great and they are all there with a positive attitude.”

Pawlak made sure to describe the conditions of what’s known as the “Playa,” which is the BLM’s vast, flat, dry lakebed of the ancient Lake Lahontan, where the festival takes place, roughly eight hours from Pahrump.

He noted the eight-day event is not for those who seek the finer things in life.

“That’s what makes it fun because at home, I have all the amenities that I need,” he said. “But to live off the land is very unique. It’s about a seven-hour drive from Pahrump and I’m testing all of the camping equipment. I have a friend who built this huge art structure and he’s an accomplished engineer and it cost him a great deal of money.”

He also said festival organizers must acquire permission from the BLM, to hold the festival each year, while noting the agency made an odd request this year, which goes against the overall principles the festival stands for.

BLM officials requested VIP accommodations and wanted 24-hour service and ice cream, as well as flushing toilets, washers and dryers, hot water, air conditioning, vanity mirrors, refrigerators and couches.

Though he noted the agency has since rescinded its request, any type modern amenities are provided and distributed through the network of participants.

“Myself being a longtime hardcore burner, I find that rather offensive because I love the fact that I can go there and be very close to the earth. We do not leave any traces as we are told not to. There are certain principles involved that are laid out by the originator of Burning Man and I live by those.”

Additionally, Pawlak said another group has also attached themselves to the event.

“The rich and wealthy have entered themselves into the event when they found out about us,” he said. “The fact that we’ve been in the news quite a bit, we are getting larger and larger with the people who are accustomed to some of the more finer things in life when they go to Burning Man.”

The first Burning Man Festival started out with roughly 20-plus participants in Northern California back in 1986.

Last year, the attendance rose to close to 66,000 burners.

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