BLACK ROCK CITY, Nev. – Thunderous blasts of fireworks kicked off the destruction of the proverbial Burning Man Saturday night as residents of this temporary city in the desert cheered.
The Man burn is the high point of a frenetic week in which 70,000 people build and occupy a city on the desert about two hours north of Reno. Sunday night will bring the more solemn burn of the Temple, into which Burners have been putting notes and other mementos all week, including the ashes of loved ones.
Saturday night's burn was a fiery one, with fire spinners dancing in a circle around the effigy, drums pounding and dance music pumping from the dozens of neon-lit "art cars" encircling the entire gathering.
Shortly before the burn, dust storms swept the area causing near-zero visibility at times, but the sky cleared and the wind dropped enough to permit the festivities to proceed as scheduled. After the burn, tens of thousands of revelers danced on the dusty ground around the burn site as dance music pumped from competing speakers.
Burning Man has its roots in a 1986 San Francisco beach bonfire in which some of the group's founders burned a 9-foot-high wooden effigy.
This year's Man towered about 80 feet above the desert floor; it was designed to rotate but the mechanism jammed upon installation, temporarily leaving the effigy stuck upside down, and headless.
After each burn, workers sift and remove rubble, returning the site to its pre-event state, as mandated by federal overseers. Burning Man is the world's largest leave-no-trace event.