As Burning Man’s popularity soars, it also grapples with growing pains. The festival’s community ponders the future, while bringing the culture to a wider public.
In 1986, a small group of friends gathered at Baker Beach, in San Francisco, to celebrate the summer solstice by lighting a 9-foot-tall wooden man on fire. The group, led by Larry Harvey, could not have known the magnitude of what they had set in motion.
Fast-forward almost 10 years, to 1995—the first year that Marian Goodell attended what was by then known as Burning Man. By that time, the week-long annual gathering had situated on a parched lakebed in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert. The Man, as he came to be called, was now about 40-feet-tall, and was burned toward the end of the festival in a cathartic marvel of fire. Tickets were $35, and the ephemeral city—which was on its way to becoming “Black Rock City” (BRC)—held 4,000 people.