Satellite image of Burning Man 2012
Photo: DigitalGlobe via Getty Images
Burning Man 2020 Canceled Due To Coronavirus Pandemic, Announces Virtual Festival
Burning Man, the annual weeklong arts, culture, music and community gathering held in the Black Rock Desert in northern Nevada, has canceled its 2020 edition due to the growing coronavirus pandemic. Organizers for the event, originally scheduled to take place August 30-September 7, officially announced the festival's cancelation in a post shared on the official Burning Man website Friday (April 10), citing "the painful reality of COVID-19."
The cancelation marks the firs time the festival, which was to celebrate its 34th installment this year, will not be held onsite, according to The New York Times.
"After much listening, discussion, and careful consideration, we have made the difficult decision not to build Black Rock City in 2020," the statement read, referring to the "temporary city" built in the Black Rock Desert that hosts Burning Man each year. "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. In 2020 we need human connection and Immediacy more than ever. But public health and the well-being of our participants, staff, and neighbors in Nevada are our highest priorities."
In place of a physical event this year, the festival will instead launch Virtual Black Rock City 2020, a "virtual metropolis" serving as an online version of Burning Man to be hosted in what organizers are calling "the Multiverse," which is the festival's theme this year; an interactive form for the virtual festival is currently live and collecting information and suggestions from attendees interested in the online event.
"We look forward to welcoming you to Virtual Black Rock City 2020," the statement read. "We're not sure how it's going to come out; it will likely be messy and awkward with mistakes. It will also likely be engaging, connective, and fun."
In addition to the statement, Marian Goodell, CEO of the Burning Man Project, the 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization overseeing the event, shared a video message explaining the event's cancelation.
"I am not here to tell you we are canceling Burning Man," she said in the video. "No. Burning Man is a culture, it's a movement. We are not defined by one aspect of Burning Man. We are defined by what we bring to Burning Man … I am here to tell that we will not be collaborating on Black Rock City in the desert this summer."
Festival organizers are working on providing refunds to those who purchased tickets. However, they are also encouraging current ticket-holders to donate all or a portion of the ticket price to the Burning Man Project, the event's parent nonprofit organization. As well, the organization noted it will "require substantial staff layoffs, pay reductions, and other belt-tightening measures" to ensure it "stays operational into next year's event season."
"We're committed to providing refunds to those who need them, but we're also committed to keeping Burning Man culture alive and thriving, and to ensuring our organization stays operational into next year's event season — which will require substantial staff layoffs, pay reductions, and other belt-tightening measures," the statement reads. "Burning Man Project's survival is going to depend on ingenuity and generosity. Luckily, our community is rich in both.
Whether you have already purchased a ticket, have been waiting for the Main Sale, or are simply supportive of our vision and mission — if you have the means, it is our sincerest hope that you will consider donating all or a portion of your ticket value, and/or making a tax-deductible donation to Burning Man Project. This is going to be a tough year for us, as we know it will be for you, but we will get through it together."
After selling a first round of tickets in March, Burning Man postponed registration and the on-sale date for its main ticket sale last month (March 30), according to Billboard. In a post announcing the sale postponement, festival organizers addressed the possibility of canceling the 2020 event due to the coronavirus pandemic.
"We are exploring every possible option for offering refunds if the 2020 event is canceled," the statement read. "Our terms and conditions state that tickets are non-refundable 'for any reason,' but we recognize how unusual this situation is, and are sensitive to the financial insecurity many in our community are facing. At the same time, building a city in the desert requires year-round planning and preparation; we have dozens of permanent employees who work full-time creating Black Rock City. We also facilitate year-round nonprofit programming including Burners Without Borders, the Regional Network, and Fly Ranch. Issuing refunds would be challenging for our nonprofit, but we are examining all possible scenarios that would enable all of us to weather this storm."
Last month, festival organizers shared multiple coronavirus-related updates, including posts on March 18 and March 20 that indicated the 2020 event would proceed as planned. "We believe the responsible course is to proceed with caution and not make a premature decision one way or the other. For now, we are going to continue to thoughtfully and mindfully prepare for Black Rock City 2020," one of the posts read.
Burning Man is the latest event to be canceled or postponed this year due to the coronavirus pandemic. Since March, Peter Gabriel's WOMAD festival, Governors Ball, Glastonbury, Isle Of Wight, Download, All Points East, Lovebox and Parklife, Bonnaroo, New Orleans Jazz Fest, BottleRock Napa Valley, the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony, Coachella and Stagecoach, Ultra Music Festival, SXSW, Lollapalooza Argentina, Something In The Water, Treefort Music Fest, Afro Nation Puerto Rico, Brussels' Listen! Festival, Record Store Day and several other major events and festivals around the world were called off or rescheduled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.