The Aquinian

A burning desire to attend Burning Man

Burning Man promotes radical self-expression and participation, with individuality shown through various works of art (Georgia Newsam/Submitted)

Scott Veysey said, as far as he knows, he’s the only person in New Brunswick with a ticket to this year’s Burning Man.

“It’s my first time going so I don’t really know what to expect. It should be interesting since I’m travelling solo,” said Veysey, originally from Sussex.

Burning Man is an annual weeklong arts festival in the Black Rock Desert in Nevada. The desert turns into Black Rock City as tens of thousands of participants set up camp. The temporary metropolis boasts radical self-expression and community through theme camps, art installations, performances and costumes.

But the festival features no hired entertainment. The “burners” create it themselves. The festival discourages spectatorship and promotes participation.

“Oh, I’ll be participating. That’s actually why I’m going on this journey by myself. I’ll get more out of it that way.

I think a lot of first-timers probably miss out the true Burning Man experience because they hang out with their friends the whole entire time.”

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Larry Harvey is the founder of Burning Man. The festival began in 1986 when Harvey and a few friends burned a tall wooden-man structure on a beach in San Francisco. In 1990, the police intervened so Harvey changed location and developed the idea of the festival.

The desert can exceed 45 degrees Celsius in late August in the driest American state. Listed on the Burning Man’s official website are survival tactics such what to do during a dust storm or “white out.”

“It’ll be fun at times, boring at times, miserable at times, confusing at times, entertaining at times, scary at times, etc,” said Veysey. “I’ll probably be pretty exhausted. Either way, I’ll have a blast. I’m going to get a kick out of it regardless, and walk out with good stories.”

Burners are expected to bring everything they need to survive in the desert, and rather than using money, the burners use a gift exchange. The only items available to buy are coffee and ice.

Given how anti-materialistic the Burning Man is, the theme this year, “cargo cults,” is radically satirical.

Around the Second World War, Japanese and American soldiers began bringing material objects like radios and guns to pre-industrial islands on the Pacific. These soldiers may have advanced the island’s quality of life with their advanced technology, but when the war was over and the soldiers left, they took their material objects with them.

What followed where rituals performed by the island’s natives in hope the “cargo” would return.

Each theme is crafted with hopes the burners will incorporate it into their self-expression and works of art.

“I really just want go down there and create my own experience… wander around by myself and go where the wind takes me. Interact with a bunch of different people, and just get into things. Lay my head whenever and wherever, basically do it all my own way.”

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Attending Burning Man has been on Veysey’s bucket list since high school. Now 25 with a ticket in hand, he says the process was easier said than done. He first tried getting a ticket to the festival in 2011, the first year Burning Man sold out.

The next year, festival organizers weren’t sure how to handle the demand so they implemented a “ticket lottery.” A random selection was made to give away 40,000 tickets to those registered.

Once again, Veysey was without a ticket.

“The whole 2012 random-selection process proved to be big farce when a large number of festival regulars who travel there each year in groups didn’t get tickets either. This of course ruined the plans for a lot of the theme-camps and big art structures.”

The “ticket lottery” received so much criticism, organizers decided to sell tickets on a first-come, first-served basis this year. Tickets went on sale Feb. 13 and Veysey sat in front of his computer for five hours, finally charging a ticket to his credit card for $380.

“It actually ended costing over $400 bucks because there’s a $30 dollar mailing charge to Canada, eh? It’s just a relief to know that I actually got a ticket after trying all these years.”

This year, Burning Man had 58,000 tickets available.

“As Burning Man’s popularity grows more each year, I figured it best that I go now and get it under my belt before it turns into something else.”

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“I’ll have to bring down some treats for the other Burners as well. I’ll bring some creative works of my own and maybe some Alpine beer. I can’t bring along too much though since I’ll be living out of a book bag and travelling light.”

Veysey doesn’t know how he’ll get to Nevada yet. Maybe hitchhike, he says. He’s not sure he’ll make an annual trip to Burning Man, but thinks it’s a week everyone needs to experience.

“I’m just a Maritimer trying to see the world… I plan on going to Utah afterwards and hanging with Mormons… I’m almost equally excited for that!”

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