Woman Dies at Burning Man Festival

Burning Man

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.

Burning Man

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.

Burning Man

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

Sources:
Mashable
Daily Mail
Quartz
Burning Man

21 Responses to "Woman Dies at Burning Man Festival"

  1. Lorraine Martin   September 11, 2014 at 9:33 am

    Gloth’s account may indeed be plausible, however she was camping and rarely in my camping experience has it been easy to shower or sleep. I would suggest a 70,000 strong festival is not the place to seek silence or a power shower. Perhaps she needs more experience of roughing it. BM makes no secret of the fact that as in all things in life one needs to take personal responsibility for their own safety and comfort. It’s in the middle of the desert for heavens sake, so yes you need to transport yourself there, have provisions for your survival and comfort…including adequate food and water supplies.
    It’s a shame it was not a more positive experience for her, however if I were to visit an unknown city without proper provisions, I too would expect to have a rotten time. Furthermore Gloth stated ‘discomfort of the desert hot sun beaming down on the event’, Ok I’m from the UK and even I know the desert is hot…sheeesh! Burning Man is not a Nanny State. I would suggest for the future Ms Gloth needs to perhaps grow up and accept the terms and conditions of life…oh and the desert too. Sincerely. Lorraine

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  2. Journalism   September 3, 2014 at 11:26 pm

    As someone who just got back from Burning Man, Gloth’s account sounds plausible. Not sure why commenters here are questioning the author’s journalism credentials. If you only want to read participatory journalism, there is plenty of Plimpton out there.

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  3. TonyC   September 3, 2014 at 3:29 pm

    People die every day, everywhere, for every reason. It has nothing to do with Burning Man, as a company or event. It is terrible that it happened, and I’m sad for her family. As for the experience level of ‘Bergins’ (Virgin Burners), that is one of the reasons for the Survival Guide. I’m sure if she elects to go back again, she will be better prepared and maybe make other choices for whom she camps with. Not every group suits every person there.

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  4. Alice   September 3, 2014 at 12:03 pm

    It appears to me you merely read the Survival Guide and pulled quotes and then talked to someone who was ridiculously unprepared to spend a week in the desert, and complains she didn’t have a ride or food. Seriously? The entire premise of Burning Man is to NOT be handed “extra amenities.” The beauty of the event is the fact that you have to be self reliant. On the flip-side, if you don’t have food, it’s really easy to find it…just ask. It’s totally different from “real life” where we are spoiled and coddled with food on every corner, lack of basic human community, and live a “liability” oriented existence.
    I am a professional, middle-aged woman and attend the event every year on my own. I find the event to be the most giving and loving place on earth. Ms. Pimentel, how can you have an “opinion” without attending the event? Why don’t you go next year and then write a first-hand opinion piece, instead of interviewing a woman who clearly doesn’t know how to take care of herself and went to the desert for a week without food.

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  5. Rainer Huck   September 3, 2014 at 10:24 am

    As a three time attendee at burning man I agree totally with hibiscus. The story by Liz Pimental is inaccurate and opinionated. The Playa is a tough environment and getting in and out can be difficult and time consuming. But once there—what a party! I don’t know what blogger Gloth’s social skills might be, but I find food and drink everywhere. Anyone who goes to a week long festival in the desert without food or water or adequate equipment or transportation is nuts. The organizers do a fantastic job providing an experience that is unique in all the world. It seems that Gloth might be a little spoiled and that Ms Pimental should do a little more research.

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  6. Thumper McDomes   September 3, 2014 at 1:14 am

    The city is now run by a not for profit, how about a little fact checking with your whine..?

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  7. schrodingerslolcat   September 2, 2014 at 10:49 am

    You don’t have to pay that much money to attend Burning Man. The whole point of “radical self reliance” is that you take care of your own needs. That means not paying some schmucky Las Vegas entertainment company $150 for the honor of camping with him. Set up your tent on your own, bring your own food, and experience the festival on your own terms. They even offer discounted tickets (and FREE tickets) to people who throw themselves into creating art and volunteering for the festival infrastructure. No one is paying more than they want to.

    As for the woman who died, it’s incredibly sad, but in a city that large the death statistics are actually much lower than other cities of comparable size. Black Rock City is remarkably safe.

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  8. hibiscus   September 2, 2014 at 10:43 am

    Wow that “blogger” apparently wasn’t able to actually read all of the information she was sent. Because it would have informed her that SHE was responsible for her own shelter, food, and water for the week. Not some random camp serving its members dinner. Nor did she have to pay to join a theme camp. Most of the city is open camping, first come, first serve. This is probably the most ill-informed “article” I have read about Burning Man. Ever.

    Maybe you should actually learn about something before writing about it. And, who freaking cares if the Org makes money? If you don’t like their financials, stop criticizing and just don’t go. AGAIN, SO WHAT IF THEY ARE “MAKING BANK”? No one is forcing you to buy a ticket if you don’t want to support them.

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  9. Jerry H.   September 2, 2014 at 4:35 am

    If you want to be there and you know the cost in advance — exactly how is that dishonest in any way. Look at the proce for 6 Flags or even better Disney. STOP Whining.

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  10. jonezen   September 1, 2014 at 6:39 pm

    Liz, please go ahead and help create the largest city in Nevada for a week, then make sure that all sixty-thousand plus habitants all come out alive, are covered by insurance, and that they each feel fulfilled commensurate with the cost of their tickets. What will you charge?

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  11. Joanne   September 1, 2014 at 5:48 pm

    Freedom of choice. I wouldn’t go but I am old. A child of the 60’s revolution.

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  12. John Dough   September 1, 2014 at 2:38 pm

    I think I could burn some stuff up, and make it sound like a good idea for 20 or so million.

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  13. John Dough   September 1, 2014 at 2:35 pm

    These people are making B A N K !!!

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  14. Oksana   September 1, 2014 at 1:43 pm

    this article STINKS. NOT TRUE and very false negatively described

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    • John Dough   September 1, 2014 at 2:36 pm

      It’s simple math….they are clearing MILLIONS of you idiots.

      Reply
  15. Marie   September 1, 2014 at 1:01 pm

    A very biased article with a catchy title. In a group of 60,000 people together for a week what are the odds that someone will die? It is a statistical probability. A person usually finds what they are looking for when they go to burning man and it is a reflection of their own self and experience.
    When I went to burning man, I had a horse trailer with a water tank and was able to give away water to people who ran out of supplies. I found coffee camp and pancake camp and made friends everyday along the way.
    What ever profits the Corporation makes does not obligate them to change the structure of the event. Bathrooms are provided, roads, first aid, Rangers, coffee and ice for sale, AAA is there, and so is a mobile septic pumping company. Computer center links campers. Theme camps, with space reserved for the building of structures, provide infrastructure for the numerous and varied activities and art where people can participate.
    The give and take happens with participants but, people who are used to just paying and getting a service without any real contribution of sweat, materials or energy are unlikely to get what they want as much as what they deserve.

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  16. Fred F   September 1, 2014 at 3:03 am

    “What” “a” “well” “written” “piece” “of” “journalism”

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  17. Rini   September 1, 2014 at 1:36 am

    Wow really? Are you an idiot? Please research the event before writing a piece about it next time.

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  18. Someone who is disappointed   August 31, 2014 at 10:54 pm

    What is this bizarre mishmash of facts, falsehoods, opinions, and nonsense? Ms. Pimentel, you have not made yourself clear, except that it’s clear that you wanted to take your argument to a place it couldn’t reach by its own logic.

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  19. Satingirl   August 31, 2014 at 7:02 pm

    Who shows up for a week long camping trip without food? Radical self reliance means bring water, food and a tent…at a minimum. It doesn’t costs our camp thousands and thousands. But then we aren’t brain dead and looking to make a journalistic name for outselves.

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  20. Buzz Foster   August 31, 2014 at 6:51 pm

    Been three times. It’s possible that a person without much social skill could have an experience like Gloth – but that would seem rare given my experience of attending knowing only one other person. The article seems to take aim at the profits made by the folks who organize and put on the show. It’s the greatest show on earth – filling the intersection between exhibitionism and voyeurism perfectly – with hundreds of camps providing endless variety of entertainment – a burner might be able to see 25% of it – and that us if they are willing to get out during the day – when most people are laid out under shade structures awaiting that moment the sun disappears behind the barren mountains and the drumbeats start up in the distance.

    Reply

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