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Burning Man festival canceled for first time in 34 years, but will it ever return? Cryptic message has fans buzzing

The organizers have not confirmed if the event will be held again in 2021
UPDATED APR 11, 2020
(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

For the first time since its humble beginnings in 1986, Burning Man Festival has been canceled on account of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Burning Man was first held 34 years ago in San Francisco as a much smaller function organized by the late Larry Harvey and his friend, Jerry James, who built the first 'Man'. Since then, it has blossomed into one of the biggest events of the year drawing in scores of attendees from all over the world. It generally spans nine days leading up to Labor Day, usually beginning on a Sunday and ending on the first Monday of September. The last Burning Man was held last year from August 25 to September 2.

This year's event was scheduled to begin on Sunday, August 20, and end on Monday, September 7, in Northern Nevada's 'Black Rock Desert'. However, even though the event has weathered monsoon rains, serious injuries and on-site deaths, the 2020 event could not stand up to the threat of COVID-19.

Burning Man is one of the biggest sources of income for the state of Nevada, drawing $60 million each year and earning the Bureau of Land Management millions of dollars in fees, in addition to being one of the biggest cultural events of the year that focuses on freedom and self-expression. So its cancelation comes as a big blow to not only the city and the event's organizers but to all who were looking forward to the experience of a lifetime as well.

Speaking about their decision in a statement, the organizers of Burning Man said, "After much listening, discussion, and careful consideration, we have made the difficult decision not to build Black Rock City in 2020. Given the painful reality of COVID-19, one of the greatest global challenges of our lifetimes, we believe this is the right thing to do. Yes, we are heartbroken. We know you are too."

The "Painted People", of San Francisco and New York, wear only paint for clothing at the15th annual Burning Man festival on September 2, 2000, in the Black Rock Desert near Gerlach, Nevada (Getty Images)

After previously announcing that they would not be building 'Black Rock City' this year back in March, they announced the event would be entirely canceled this year and in an unexpected move even offered to refund all the originally non-refundable tickets.

The ownership and control of the Burning Man event were transferred over to a non-profit organization called the 'Burning Man Project' in 2014, and the refunding of all tickets has put such a massive financial strain on the non-profit that they have been soliciting donations to stay afloat, even begging anyone who could afford to spend money right now to donate the equivalent of their ticket price to help the organization out.

Additionally, the Burning Man Project also reported they would be initiating "substantial staff layoffs, pay reductions, and other belt-tightening measures" to save themselves from drowning. A spokeswoman for the project, Megan Miller, has also added that the number of layoffs and reductions would depend on how many ticket donations they receive.

As per public tax documents, the organization does, however, have a $10 million backup fund.

With regards to whether Burning Man will ever return, nothing but a cryptic message of the spirit of Black Rock City being continued in the "multiverse" has been revealed, so no one really knows what the future holds for the beloved event.