All of the Reasons Burning Man Was Canceled, According to People Who Have Never Been

“Burning Man? Is that still going?”

Yes, believe it or not, Burning Man is still going. Don’t get me wrong — it’s been ruined by all sorts of things and people, bought and sold by international mega-corporations several times over, and canceled at least twice a year, but technically it’s still going.

Which is sad, really. It used to mean something when events got canceled.

This is all very confusing, so here’s a handy list of things that have canceled Burning Man,  entirely compiled from the most knowledgeable of demographics: people who have never set foot in Black Rock City.

“I heard it was canceled because of a plague of bugs.” This one is accurate insofar as there were several bugs. It’s inaccurate in that the event was not canceled. Also, that was in 2015. Extra points for the Biblical plague angle.

“The founders sold it for $1 bajillion”, my favorite bartender informed me about a week ago. Three points for obscurity, minus five points for completely missing the “actually they donated it to a nonprofit they’re still in charge of” part.

“Didn’t they destroy the mainstage? Is Burning Man going to happen this year?” People who only read tabloids are clearly the foremost authorities on the White Ocean vandalism.

“Isn’t it, like, half cops? They search you for drugs at the gate! That’s so not legal!” Leaving aside the money factor, having 35,000 cops in a city of 70,000 people seems a little bit excessive, but what do I know. Then again, getting searched at the gate might be the reason…

“…the line to get in is, like, three days long.” Longest confirmed wait time I ever heard about was 20 hours. It was because of a rain lockdown, not cavity searches.

“It’s canceled because of rain.” This one is correct. If by “is” you mean “was in 2014,” and by “canceled” you mean “closed for a little bit because the road was porridge, then opened again.”

“There’s water on the playa! They’re going to have to cancel it!” This has happened literally every year since Lake Lahontan fucked off into the clouds. I’m not saying it’ll never get canceled because of standing water, I’m just saying it has literally never happened. I’d tell you who said this, but they’re limiting me to 50,000 words.

“Isn’t it really dusty this year? What about the sandstorms?” Not an issue since we painted the playa. Next!

“Pacific Carbon Monoxide is sponsoring the Temple! Proof Burning Man got sold!” The 2017 Temple is using recycled wood. Some of that wood is from old utility company projects. Mostly because the local furniture shop doesn’t have enough scrap in its dumpster to build something the size of a city block. Even this hasn’t canceled Burning Man.

“All I know about Burning Man is that it used to be about hieroglyphics and it started out in West Oakland.” I got that from a Lyft driver this morning when I dropped my truck off for pre-playa maintenance. I’ll come back here and insert my answer later. I still haven’t figured that one out.

“The road washed out! They’ll have to cancel Burning Man!” The road is repaired. Burning Man is not canceled. Civilization works sometimes.

BONUS! There’s a brush fire on 447 between Nixon and Wadsworth. Guess what? It won’t cancel Burning Man! Maybe someday we will have to cancel, but when we do, it will not be because of too much fire.


Top photo: Preying Man-tis (Photo by Dan Adams)

About the author: Anselm Engle

Anselm Engle

Anselm is a relative newcomer to the Burning Man scene (Burning since 2013), but a long-time citizen of liminal spaces everywhere. He thinks with his hands, believes specialization is a mistake, and makes the user support systems work at Burning Man Headquarters.

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