Are YOU waiting with bated breath for news? Will we, or will we not, be in a position to co-create Black Rock City in 2021? We want to know too! A lot is resting on this decision, and it’s simply too early to make the call. As of today, the COVID-19 pandemic still presents too many unknowns.
Nevertheless, we are cautiously, carefully, and mindfully planning for a potential 2021 event. As an organization we have decades of experience weighing risks and managing uncertainty. And so we’re gathering our ducks, beginning to put them in something that resembles a row, and getting key processes in motion in the event that public health experts and government agencies tell us it’s possible to produce Black Rock City.
What We Know
No matter what happens, we can count on each other — all the humans in our endlessly inventive global community — to support one another. We’re Burners; this is what we do.
And we know what we heard from the 30,000 of you who engaged with the survey we sent out in January. Thank you for your thoughts and insights! We learned that 66% of respondents are likely to want to participate in Black Rock City if the public health situation allows. Three quarters of respondents said they were happy to comply with COVID-19 mitigation measures, such as testing and proof of vaccination. You shared our concern about the safety of neighboring Nevada communities and told us vaccination doesn’t stop you from worrying about COVID-19 transmission.
We asked: If the public health situation has sufficiently improved and we are able to produce the Black Rock City event in 2021 in a responsible and safe way that satisfies all federal, state and local government requirements, how likely is it that you will choose to participate?
Data is exciting and sexy, we know. But most of you are not here for the numbers. You want all the details — safety precautions, ticket updates, participation form opening dates, and news on how you can participate. Read on, we’re sharing as much information as we can, as early as possible.
Building Black Rock City is a massively complex endeavor that requires us to sync hundreds of thousands of moving parts. This process involves YOU, your camp leads, mutant vehicle teams, participants, staff, volunteers, art crews, and beyond. We need to set some of these key processes in motion now to ensure that if we get the go-ahead, we will be ready to move.
To contain our exposure and risk, we are limiting this advance work to what is absolutely essential, while putting off what we can until as late as possible. A lot can still change in the next few months, and we don’t know what impact the new COVID-19 variants will have. Together with the State of Nevada and epidemiology experts, we’re watching the landscape very carefully. We expect that we’ll have most of what we need to confidently make a decision no later than the end of May. Of course it’s also possible that the situation will look positive enough in May for us to announce the event, only to have subsequent developments force us to cancel it. We hope that won’t be the case. Whatever happens, we will be open and transparent about what we are thinking as we move through each of these stages.
Science-based Approach to Health and Safety
Public health specialists have come a long way in their understanding of this virus, but it’s too early to know with certainty where the world will be in terms of COVID-19 cases, vaccinations, and variants by summer.
We’re watching, listening, and learning more every week. Our COVID-19 Task Force and Government Affairs Department are working closely with Black Rock City Operations teams, the state of Nevada, public health officials, epidemiologists, and technology companies to create protocols that ensure the highest level of safety possible. Learn more about the work of our COVID-19 Task Force in this Journal post.
Some of the measures we’re evaluating for Black Rock City include proof of vaccination, rapid onsite testing, antibody verification, and negative test verification. Nothing has been decided yet, but some combination of the above is likely to be required to return to BRC in 2021. As indicated below, between 54% and 71% of respondents said they would be willing to comply with one or more of these COVID-19 mitigation measures, while 8.7% said they were not willing. Duly noted. This might not be your year.
Participate in Shaping the Future of Black Rock City and Burning Man Culture
Building Black Rock City 2021 will introduce new challenges and opportunities. In the coming weeks we’ll be inviting you to bring your ideas and energy, to engage in conversations and collaborate with each other around three areas: Health and Safety; Sustainability; and Radical Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity (R.I.D.E.). If you’re interested in participating, or hearing more directly, let us know. Updates will be posted to all the usual Burning Man Project channels when available.
Smaller, Leaner Black Rock City
We do know this: if we are able to bring Burning Man back to Black Rock City this year, we will have less lead-up time than in previous years, and the city itself will look and feel different. Burn Week dates will be the same, August 29 to September 6, 2021, but Black Rock City will likely have a smaller population; how much smaller will depend on variables that are beyond our control.
Changes to the landscape of Black Rock City do not diminish the nature and impact of our shared experience. If anything, it’s a call for YOU to amplify its effect, to bring it back into the world, and continue burning wherever you are. Black Rock City may be our north star, but Burning Man is everywhere, all the time. We need Burner magic, muscle, and imagination today, more than ever.
The world is vastly different now than it was a year ago. We’ve all been affected by the pandemic, and many of us have suffered real hardship. We may have fewer resources, or smaller crews. It will be more difficult for all of us to gather, plan, and build. Can we de-emphasize the big lift this year, and lighten up on the pressure to bring large-scale, high-cost infrastructure to Black Rock City?
We’d like to hope that Black Rock City 2021 will be an opportunity for healing and rebuilding, rather than a hectic, heroic effort. We want to honor and recognize this shift by placing health and safety, environmental sustainability, and Radical Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity at the heart of everything we create together.
More Information on Tickets in the Spring
We know tickets are top of mind, and that for many, ticket announcements kick off your Burn season. We don’t have any substantive information to share yet. Here’s what we know: we are committed to ensuring a diverse and engaged citizenry, and we’re exploring ways to infuse more mission-driven opportunity into our ticketing process.
If we do move forward with Black Rock City in 2021, registration could start in April for ticket sales in May or later. As always, subscribe to the Jackrabbit Speaks, and keep an eye on the Burning Man Journal for updates on tickets, COVID-19 protocols, and ways to engage with the global Burning Man community.
Participation Forms to Open Later Than Usual
New timeframes enable us all to start planning without committing too much too soon. We understand that plans may change over the course of spring and summer, so we’ve pushed back the opening and deadlines of Black Rock City participation forms. Instead of typically opening in February, the Art Installation Questionnaire and DMV Application will open mid-March, and the Camp Placement Questionnaire in early May.
As always, forms will be accessible via your Burner Profile. Keep a keen eye on all our channels; we will announce questionnaires and deadlines as they arise. Whether you’re launching a new camp, or you’re a seasoned theme camp organizer, subscribe to and watch the Placement Newsletter for fresh information on the 2021 Placement process.
Expect Burners to Rise to the Occasion
We’re no strangers to uncertainty. From government challenges to water on the playa, those who have built Black Rock City year after year have wrangled more threats to our desert city than we may care to admit. Every time, we learn, we pivot, and we manage the reality. We become more resilient, our collective toolkit for managing adversity gets broader, and our culture grows stronger.
Know this: all over the world, Burners are building generous and impossible things that ignite hope and spark wonder. Even when we’re unable to gather in person, the culture continues to grow, thrive, and reinvent itself year after year. As a community, we’ve provided logistical support in places hit hard by COVID-19. Members of our Emergency Services Department continue to work on the front lines of the pandemic. And our endlessly inventive global community has devised playful new ways to safely gather, celebrate, and do good.
Look no further than the burst of wild creativity that brought the 2020 Burning Man Multiverse to life. Tens of thousands of Burners around the world, many new to the culture, transcended the boundaries of time and space to redefine what it means to co-experience and co-create. And they continue to do so. Throughout this year, BRCvr and Co-Reality Collective (the folks behind SparkleVerse) have hosted wondrous spaces that invite one and all to gather and burn — join their mailing lists to learn about upcoming events. Yes! BRCvr, SparkleVerse, and several other 2020 Universes will once again illuminate the virtual dust during Burn Week 2021.
And finally, know this: whether or not we build Black Rock City this year, Burners will continue to embark on adventures of exploration into uncharted territory. We will continue to change the world, well beyond the confines of Black Rock City. And we will do it together. We’ve got this.
Cover image of The Monaco, 2017 (Photo by Mark Hammon)