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Burning Man 2020 Is Officially Canceled, Burners Will Enjoy A Digital Experience Instead

Burning Man has notably been one of the biggest annual festivals in the country to hold out from canceling due to COVID-19, a move that you could argue was irresponsible, but — given the good-natured vibe of Burners — was probably more hopeful than anything else. Black Rock City has risen from the dust from the last Monday of August until the first Monday of September without fail since 1990. That streak ends now. In an abundance of caution, The Burning Man Journal has officially announced that Black Rock City will not be built in 2020.

“Yes, we are heartbroken…” the statement reads, “In 2020 we need human connection and Immediacy more than ever. But Public health and the wellbeing of our participants, staff, and neighbors in Nevada are our highest priority.”

Like Girl Scout cookies, Burning Man is going digital:

We look forward to welcoming you to Virtual Black Rock City 2020. We’re not sure how it’s going to come out; it will likely be messy and awkward with mistakes. It will also likely be engaging, connective, and fun.

We have to hand it to the organizers of Burning Man, the idea of digitizing the Burning Man experience seems so contrary to the very spirit of the festival, we’re surprised they’re even trying. It would sound dystopian if the Burners at the Burning Man Journal didn’t make it all seem so serendipitous — a response to the pre-selected “Multiverse” theme.

“We’re going to lean into it.” the statement reads. “Who’d have believed it would come true?”

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The “virtual playa” will not be free, but how much the experience will cost and other details are still being hammered out.

We will have costs and will need to create some kind of ‘ticket.’ We’re working out those details and will share them as soon as we can. It won’t be like the BRC we’ve built over the years; we know that’s no substitute for an in-person experience. It will be a new kind of Burn.

A digital experience is all well and good but that begs the question of what this means for those of us who already had our Burning Man plans set in stone and don’t want to watch a live stream of a burning effigy. If you snagged tickets to Burning Man 2020 back in February, you’ll be happy to know that you’re entitled to a full refund through your dedicated Burner Profile. But just because Black Rock City 2020 is going digital, doesn’t mean the Burning Man Project plans on stopping its various charity programs and since 90% of Burning Man’s revenue comes from ticket sales alone, they’re asking generous Burners to consider donating that money to the project.

Whether you have already purchased a ticket, have been waiting for the Main Sale, or are simply supportive of our vision and mission — if you have the means, it is our sincerest hope that you will consider donating all or a portion of your ticket value, and/ or making a tax-deductible donation to Burning Man Project.

The project plans to continue investing in programs like Burners Without Borders and Fly Ranch, and continue to provide grants to artists, something that will put a considerable strain on their entire operation. “We have started implementing salary cuts for everyone on our leadership team and are having to lay off some of our dedicated staff members. We hope to bring many of them back in 2021, but it’s too soon to know exactly how all of this will unfold.”

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