Burning Man, the annual countercultural arts event that typically draws tens of thousands of people to Nevada’s Black Rock Desert, has been canceled again this year because of the pandemic, but will return in 2022, organizers announced on Tuesday.
The decision to forgo building the event’s makeshift temporary metropolis, known as Black Rock City, in late August came after months of deliberations among organizers, who sought feedback from past participants on issues like vaccination requirements and racial diversity. With vaccinations mounting across the nation, expectations were high that the festival, which began in San Francisco in 1986 and moved to the Black Rock Desert in 1990, would resume this year after being called off in 2020.
“But, although here in the United States we may be feeling the weight lifting and the light at the end of the tunnel brightening, we are still in the pandemic, and the uncertainties that need to be resolved are impossible to resolve in the time we have,” organizers said on their website, The Burning Man Journal.
The return of Burning Man — with its towering art installations, all-night dance parties under the stars, and desert-roaming vehicles shaped like Pac Man ghosts and fire-spewing sea creatures — had for many participants become a litmus test in the nation’s collective journey back to some semblance of normalcy.
Some groups of attendees who camped together at the event had already announced that they would not return in 2021 because of concerns about public health and about affordability, given the economic pain the pandemic has inflicted on many people.
But many others were planning to attend, and certain camps were told as recently as Monday by organizers that they would be eligible for specific quantities of tickets, which only added to the sense of disappointment on Tuesday.
Emily Nicolosi, a research assistant professor at the University of Utah who has attended Burning Man, said she had been working for months to build a collection of large sculptures for display at the event this year.
“I’m pretty devastated,” she said on Tuesday, though she noted that organizers have allowed artists to keep the grant money they received for art projects.
Ms. Nicolosi said she did not fault the organizers for making the difficult decision to hold off until 2022. “It’s a hard choice, but I think they did the right thing to wait,” she said.