Coronavirus crisis forces Burning Man to move from desert to online

Burning Man ticket holders can no longer gather in Black Rock City due to the coronavirus crisis. So organizers are bringing Black Rock City to them.

On Friday, the Burning Man Project announced that the annual Nevada festival, originally set for Aug. 30 to Sept. 7, is going virtual in 2020, “given the painful reality of COVID-19, one of the greatest global challenges of our lifetimes.”

“After much listening, discussion, and careful consideration, we have made the difficult decision not to build Black Rock City in 2020,” organizers said in a statement.

“Yes, we are heartbroken. We know you are too. In 2020 we need human connection and immediacy more than ever. But public health and the well-being of our participants, staff, and neighbours in Nevada are our highest priorities.”

Instead, event planners will “lean into” the extravaganza’s previously announced “multiverse” theme by re-creating its desert culture in cyberspace.

“We’re not sure how it’s going to come out,” the announcement said. “It will likely be messy and awkward with mistakes. It will also likely be engaging, connective, and fun.”

For those who already purchased tickets to Black Rock Desert, the Burning Man team said they were “committed to providing refunds” but noted that the organization must implement “substantial staff layoffs, pay reductions, and other belt-tightening measures” to stay afloat.

To offset costs, “some kind of ‘ticket’” will be required to access the virtual alternative. For now, organizers are asking those who planned on attending to “consider donating all or a portion of your ticket value, and/or making a tax-deductible donation to Burning Man Project.”

Burning Man is one of several entertainment events that has shut down amid the public health emergency. Last month, promoter Goldenvoice announced that Coachella — another major desert festival — had been rescheduled to the weekends of Oct. 9 and Oct. 16.

Other cancelled or postponed events include SXSW, the 2020 Billboard Music Awards, Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival and the Met Gala, among many others.

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TORONTO STAR