A woman has died at the Burning Man Festival, which is currently taking place in Nevada. The woman, whose name is Alicia Louise Cipicchio, 29, was reported to have been struck and killed by an art car in the early morning hours on Thursday. She was the manager of an art gallery located in Jackson, Wyoming. The traffic fatality is the first to occur since a previous incident in 2003.
According to the website Mashable, the art car was a double-decker British bus called Shagadelica which had been covered in white fur. The area of the tragedy took place near the Center Camp which is the central hub of the event. The accident comes after attendees had already faced a long delay on opening day when rain had prevented the event from starting on time.
Daily Mail Online stated some festival goers had to wait up to 29 hours before being admitted to the event after heavy rain had dampened the event on Monday. Though many people were reported as having extreme patience, others left to spend the night in a nearby Walmart parking lot, or at the Grand Sierra Resort Casino. The event re-opened around 6 a.m. on Tuesday for the tens of thousands of people who had been waiting.
In previous years, the Burning Man Festival has attracted over 55,000 people to the Black Rock Desert where the event is held. An estimated 70,000 may attend this year. Even though a woman died at this annual Burning Man Festival event, now in its 28th year, the displays and gatherings will go on.
Burning Man Festival is known for its intricate art work, communal operations and radical expressions. Tickets for the event are priced at $380, but some may have been sold for around $1000, while those facing financial hardship can possibly get tickets for $190 according to the F.A.Q. section of the Burning Man website.
The festival originally started at San Francisco’s Baker Beach with around 80 people. It hit the mark of around 1000 people in 1993, and since then has grown to include tens of thousands of people from around the world. Organizers have been known to state the festival is what ever the attendees make of it, but it usually includes large displays of intricate art pieces. Daily Mail Online stated it is a “haven for hippies, artists, musicians, and dancers” and provides a week for people to showcase “artistic expression.”
A blogger by the name of Aimee Gloth wrote about how the festival is not for “regular folks.” Gloth had decided to journey to the festival last year and experience it firsthand. After purchasing tickets at face value and receiving a survival guide, Gloth reported she also received a list of 200 recommended supplies which included suggestions like a bike, goggles, LED lights, and boots for the dust that may likely occur due to dust storms which happen around that time.
Gloth wrote about how she had racked up a high bill prior to the festival and had yet to find a way to get there. Eventually she was able to find a ride with strangers, but had to wire them money prior to the event for travel expenses. She defined it as “modern-day hitchhiking.” She also needed to find a camp to stay at and mentioned she was able to find an owner of a Las Vegas entertainment company who charged her $150 and required 2 bottles of liquor, as well as a volunteer requirement to pour drinks for “revelers.”
Gloth continued to state there was no real way to shower or sleep, and her quest for food was hard at times. She mentioned the discomfort of the desert hot sun beaming down on the event, and that an exclusive camp required her name to be on a list in order to share a meal. Though she recalled a moment of finding an “eerie silence,” she ended her report by stating the festival was just too expensive.
Though Gloth’s experience may have been exclusive to her as a first-time attendee, it appears Black Rock City, L.L.C, the ones in charge of organizing the Burning Man Project, may be sending mixed messages about this special community event. Though the Burning Man website states the festival is for those who “dedicate themselves to the spirit of community, art, self-expression, and self-reliance” and leaves no trace a week afterwards, is non-reliant on corporate sponsorship, and strives to stay a “thriving year-round culture,” it appears the company is also for profit with low liability.
The tickets state “you voluntarily assume the risk of death” and this appears in-part because of past deaths which have happened over the years. Other than assuming that individual risk, each individual or camp is also expected to bring ALL supplies and tools needed to “survive in a harsh environment,” according to the Burning Man website. Coffee and ice are the only items available for sale in this “commerce-free” event, and proceeds go to the “nutritional needs” of the staff.
One may then ask what is this “community” if it requires “self-reliance” and individual responsibility of all risks and supplies needed with little assistance from the organizers. Though it appears strangers are welcomed and expected to “participate” and not be just “spectators,” that did not appear to be the case for Gloth last year, especially when it came to finding a meal and being on a list.
Still, feedback from various reports have “revelers” describing the festival as unique and “the best festival in the world.” Daily Mail Online stated it was the largest outdoor arts festival, and that this “experimental community” incorporates “plenty of partying” complete with unique costume wear, passionate sunrise dancing, and “massive fire displays.” Its concept of “self-reliance” community appears to be just that when one factors in the time, energy, and attention attendees must provide, along with “artistic expression” and survival gear needed to stay alive in a scorching hot desert.
Though Black Rock City L.L.C. claims to have rules and regulations for the event, it is surprising they do no provide extra amenities to attendees, even if they are already providing the landscape. To have exclusivity for certain “camps” and state those without adequate resources will be turned away by gate personnel makes one wonder if the company runs the event as a for-profit organization, or actual communal association – with no one turned away for need, and all items shared.
Financial reports listed as Afterburn Reports on the Burning Man website state expenses are about the same as profit to organize and run the Burning Man Festival. Most of the expenses appear to go towards members of the company and their staff, however. In fact, when one adds up last year’s reported 68,000 attendees with the ticket price of $380 and the $40 parking fee mentioned on the website, profits are well over $28 million dollars.
Expenditures are reported as including the cost to rent the land and equipment, law enforcement, and other necessities such as port-o-potties and medical services. Prior to paying artists and their own members, profit after expenses appear to equal around $20 million. When one includes the self-run duties of a business through administrative needs, profits still equal around $19 million. After artists are paid (including a reported $800,00 yearly donation to other artists) the company can still rake in about $18 million. The company’s Afterburn Reports report expenditures at around $26 million, including a donation of $200,000 to local Nevada schools and organizations, but it appears most of the expenditures go towards tasks performed by the members of Black Rock City and their staff for time, travel, equipment, and any further assistance needed, such as printing services.
Veteran attendees appear to stay dedicated and in love with the Burning Man Festival. They are most likely well-prepared and knowledgeable about the festival, and may even designate how the party goes – rather, the vibe of the community. Though tickets are reported as stating each person assumes the risk of death, and a survival guide is included, the company defines the community as having “self-reliance” and “self-expression.” One may simply have to attend the event in order to decide what it truly is, but it is unfortunate a woman just died at the Burning Man Festival and only limited liability covers her death.
Opinion By Liz Pimentel