St. Louis Post-Dispatch from St. Louis, Missouri on August 31, 1997 · Page 10
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St. Louis Post-Dispatch from St. Louis, Missouri · Page 10

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St. Louis, Missouri
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Sunday, August 31, 1997
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Page 10
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3 AUG311997 14A ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH SUNDAY, AUGUST 31, 1997 " h Holt Bssoae Burning Man Festival Getting Too Popular By Joe Williams Special to the Post-Dispatch For many Americans, Labor Day is the end of the summer. For the 15,000 artists, musicians, pagans and technocrats who are flocking to the Burning Man festival in northern Nevada this weekend, it could be the end of an era. Since 1990, a caravan has come to a dry lakebed north of Reno to build towering sculptures, pound on drums, bathe in the hot springs and culminate a weekend of radical merriment by burning a 40-foot, neon-lit effigy of a man. The Burning Man festival may be a victim of its own popularity. Attendance has doubled every year since 1986, when a dozen artists gathered on a San Francisco beach to greet the summer solstice and soothe a buddy's broken heart with a ritual bonfire. When Bay Area officials grew weary of the annual gathering, the festival moved to 400 square miles of fenceless federal land in Nevada. Last year, the incursion of gawkers and petty thieves at the event forced the organizers to change plans. This year, the festival is being held on a much smaller tract of private land a few miles and another county removed from last year's site. Although the organizers have put a brave face on the transition, the move was motivated by the need to limit access to the site and by the increasingly strict demands placed on the organizers by federal, state and local officials. Although founder Larry Harvey and the rest of the organizing committee have forged an unlikely alliance with many of the rugged folk in the nearby hamlet of Gerlach, Nev., elected officials have bristled at the nudity and irreverence of some of the art and at the "...financial burden that .tjie event has placed on the limited Tesourcesof rural Pershing County. . ' At last year's festival, three injured people required a helicopter rescue after a drtinken reveler drove through a campsite, and another attendee was killed in a motorcycle accident while driving into town. As longtime organizer John Law notes, "One fourth of Pershing's yearly law-enforcement budget was spent on something they got zero revenue from." Even more troublesome for some attendees was the influx of journalists and the ring of local ranchers who narked their trucks and folding chairs in front of the effigy an hour before the Sunday night bonfire, blocking the sightlines of the paying customers. Stuart Mangrum, who resigned as press liaison after last year's event, said that "1996 was the year that Burning Man went over the edge. Too many gawkers, too many cars, too many arrests, too many heartbreaks." Partly to control another influx of adolescent gatecrashers who might be attracted by rumors of an orgy, the committee decided to move this year's festival to private land on the nearby Hualapai Flat. The new site has only about 12 square miles to play with, so motor vehicles are forbidden outside the camping zone. And volunteers will be roaming among the campsites, reinforcing the notions of community and cooperation that are emphasized in the "survival guide" that comes with the $65 admission fee. 1 Still, when the festival organizers appeared before the Washoe County commission that would license this constricted version of the event, they were given a list of 121 costly preconditions, including requirements for an $11 million insurance policy, uniformed security personnel and the services of 57 full-time firefighters. "The county commissioners have done everything in their power to keep Burning Man from happening," said Marian Goodell, who holds the title of Mistress of a' JS if tr - V AP ! A saxophonist strolls across Hualapai Playa behind the 40-foot Burning Man sculpture at the Burning Man festival in Nevada. On Sunday, the Burning Man becomes ashes. Communications. "Since there was no legal reason to refuse our permit, the county chose the financial route." Although many of the initial demands were fulfilled, the out-of-town representatives of Burning Man were not allowed to speak at the public meetings. When it became clear that the organizers could not pay the county's fees in advance without resorting to corporate sponsorship, a compromise was reached: The county would simply take 50 percent of all gate receipts. It was only on Tuesday, one day before the first arrivals would pass through the gate, that the county commissioners approved a permit. Still, rumors of drug raids and state police road blocks persist on the Internet bulletin board devoted to the festival alongside grim allusions to Jonestown and the Heaven's Gate suicide cult. POSTER has updates and photos on the Burning Man event POSTnet details, Page 2A ,-V y..,"r-! i.vW.-t fS n , ilk mil, xQ'i . Of i ml NEW AT FAMOUS CLINIQUE SUPERBALANCED MAKEUP ADDS MOISTURE a SUBTRACTS OIL TO STABILIZE COMBINATION SKIN Clinique Introduces a beautiful balancing act to answer the challenges of combination skin. Superbalanced Makeup restores skin's equilibrium by re-hydrating dry areas and absorbing oily outbreaks. This lightweight, oil-free foundation slips on sheer and silky to give you a flawless finish. Available in 18 shades to match your skintone. Superbalanced Makeup 1-oz., 15.50. FREE COLOR CONSULTATIONS NOW THROUGH SEPTEMBER 6 Discover the makeup that's just right for your skin during a personal color consultation with a Clinique beauty expert. 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