MONTROSE – It’s almost time for Burning Man, the annual pilgrimage this weekend to an ultimate artistic experience in a dry lakebed in the Black Rock Desert of northern Nevada.
Burning Man defies explanation if you’ve never been and defies understanding unless you have.
As the Burning website says, “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 someone who is blind.”
Acknowledging that it’s all but indescribable, San Miguel County Commissioner Art Goodtimes, a Burning Man veteran, took a stab at it:
“Damn. Burning Man’s the biggest, bestest, wildest party you’ll ever attend,” Goodtimes said. “Imagine cavorting in a desert museum of outside art turned into a Harry Potter/Blade Runner lightshow megapolis with 40,000 of your closest friends. It’s an experience not to miss.”
Another veteran, Anton Viditz-Ward of Telluride, said tickets to Burning Man, at around $300, are well worth it to attend the well organized but free-for-all event.
“If someone said a ticket to Mars was $300, wouldn’t you go?” he said.
“The biggest experience is at night and photography doesn’t do it justice,” he said. “It’s like every holiday party you’ve ever been to rolled up into one: Halloween, Christmas, Mardi Gras — there’s nothing like it, and it’s all about the art.”
Viditz-Ward, an architect also trained as a welder, said his art piece this year is a huge fire wheel, a structure that holds wood that’s on fire and “spins around and makes lots of fire and sparks.”
Just getting to Burning Man is a challenge, said Viditz-Ward and he is hauling a 20-foot flatbed trailer behind a diesel truck that will carry a huge circus tent complete with a kitchen, which will be set up amid other tents and travel trailers of those in his group.
Getting ready for the trip takes months of preparation, and Tracy Dodd of Montrose is also getting his own flatbed ready to go where he’ll haul a personal toilet on back along with shower facilities and a 20-foot Viking ship, covered with lights, with an iridescent mermaid on the bow.
This year, Dodd and his friends are adding handheld flame-throwers and a dragon’s head to the huge piece of art.
Dodd said he first went to Burning Man in 10 years ago after a friend sent him a ticket. He was going through a rough patch at the time, but Burning Man changed his life.
“It totally changed my outlook,” he said. “Life truly is a blink. There’s no time for drama and no time for bullshit. Live life for the breathless moments.”
With all the thousands of people who converge on the playa, or lakebed and create Black Rock City for the week, nothing is left behind and cleanup is complete, Dodd said.
Burning Man is sponsored by the nonprofit Black Rock Arts Foundation that “works to bring the art and spirit of Burning Man back home and into our daily lives, through public art, community and civic participation” according to its website.
But it’s more than art, Dodd said. Burning Man is also a giving community where everyone shares essentials and nothing is for sale except coffee and tea and having your camper pumped out.
Dodd and his friends will set up Camp Chaos, which will be painted in day-glo paint and lit by black lights at night.
During the day, for several house members of Camp Chaos will offer free foot soaks and massages, temporary hair color and body paint and more while others play music for entertainment. They’ll also give away several hundred hot dogs, he said.
Although it’s possible to go to Burning Man “on the cheap,” Dodd said, for the serious attendee preparations can be expensive. Dodd said he spent $500 just on bottled water and Gatorade alone.
But the cost doesn’t matter, Dodd said. It’s the indescribable experience that counts.
“I found my inner child released and my free spirit at burning man,” he said.