The annual Burning Man festival will end on Monday night with the burning of ‘the man’ – concluding perhaps the saddest Burning Man ever, and leaving Nevada’s waterlogged desert littered with stuck abandoned boots in mud and acres of rubbish.
Organizers said Monday that 64,000 revelers remained at the site and pleaded with those trying to leave the grimy encampment to be patient and kind.
Half an inch of rain fell on Friday, turning the site into a quagmire, and attendees were asked not to leave as exit roads were impassable.
Some said the dire weather had created a sense of community, but others admitted there was mild panic about being stuck there with dwindling food and water.
The road reopened at 2pm on Monday and the ‘exodus’ could begin: those leaving the festival before the ‘fire’ on Monday evening had to wait five hours in their vehicles until they reached the open road.
“Go slowly and watch out for those directing traffic,” organizers pleaded.
“Please be patient when exiting Gate Road and respect the Burning Man staff who work hard to make the Exodus experience as smooth and safe as possible.”
People in parrot costumes sit on Monday and watch ‘the man’ – the effigy in the distance
People are pictured wading through mud in Nevada on Monday
A motorhome is stuck in the mud as drivers tried to leave the Nevada site
Chicago’s Shai Peza dances in the mud after rain on Saturday
Molly from Salt Lake City poses for a photo at Burning Man
Traffic lines stretch to the horizon on Monday as thousands of people tried to leave
People have been asked to delay their departure until Tuesday if possible.
They were also told not to attempt to walk. Some attendees, including comedian Chris Rock, actor Austin Butler and DJ Diplo, had already left the festival on foot.
Weather permitting, “The Man” is expected to be set on fire at 9 p.m. Monday, while the temple is expected to catch fire at 8 p.m. Tuesday.
The National Weather Service in Reno said the weather is expected to remain mostly clear and dry at the festival site Monday, although a few light rain showers may pass Tuesday morning.
The event kicked off on August 27 and was due to end on Monday morning, with attendees packing and cleaning up after themselves.
“We are a bit dirty and muddy, but morale is good. The party continues,” said Scott London, a photographer from Southern California, adding that travel limitations provided “a view of Burning Man that many of us don’t get to see.”
Participants cross a muddy desert plain on Monday
A man makes his way through the desert mud on Monday
Muddy boots are left on the side of the road on Monday
Burning Man organizers announced on Monday that it was safe to leave, but said no one could leave the event at speeds over 10 miles per hour.
Hundreds of Burning Man attendees who planned to leave by bus await information on when they can leave
A man inspects the muddy scene in Black Rock, Nevada, on Monday
LA’s ‘Dirty D’ dives into Burning Man mud
One person could even be seen with a boat parked at the site.
The annual gathering, launched on a San Francisco beach in 1986, draws nearly 80,000 artists, musicians and activists for a mix of wild camping and cutting-edge performances.
Disruptions are part of the event’s recent history: dust storms forced organizers to temporarily close festival entrances in 2018, and the event was canceled twice during the pandemic.
At least one death has been reported, but organizers said the death of a man in his 40s was not weather-related.
The nearby Pershing County Sheriff said he was investigating but did not identify the man or the cause of death.
President Joe Biden told reporters in Delaware on Sunday that he was aware of the situation at Burning Man, including the death, and that the White House was in contact with local authorities.
The event is held remotely on the best days and emphasizes self-sufficiency.
Amid the flooding, revelers were told to save their food and water, and most remained hunkered down at the site.
However, some participants managed to walk several kilometers to the nearest town or take a tour there.
Diplo, real name Thomas Wesley Pentz, posted a video to Instagram on Saturday night showing him and Rock in the back of a fan’s van. He said they drove six miles through the mud before hitching a ride.
“I legitimately walked on the side of the road for hours with my thumb out,” Diplo wrote.
Diplo wore ski goggles to protect his eyes from desert dust as he left the site
Actor and comedian Chris Rock, 58, found himself in the middle of the muddy mayhem that descended on the Burning Man festival site and hitchhiked his way out of the chaos on Saturday.
Lines of traffic snake through the desert on Monday as festival goers attempt to leave
Rubbish is left by the roadside on Monday along the Burning Man exit road.
People appeared to have thrown their trash bags out of their vehicles on Monday.
The spirit of Burning Man is self-sufficiency, but many people seem to have ignored it and left their trash behind.
A double rainbow is visible at the site on Friday, amid heavy rain.
Cindy Bishop and three of her friends managed to leave the festival in their rented motorhome at dawn on Monday when, Bishop said, the main road was unguarded.
She said they were happy to get by after driving to the exit – and repeatedly getting stuck – for two days.
But Bishop, who had traveled from Boston for her second Burning Man, said morale was still high at the festival when they left.
Most of the people she spoke with said they planned to stay for the ceremonial burnings.
“The spirit there was really like, ‘We’re going to take care of each other and make the best of it,'” she said.
Rebecca Barger, a photographer from Philadelphia, arrived at her first Burning Man on August 26 and was determined to stick it out.
“Everyone just adapted, sharing campervans to sleep in, offering food and coffee,” Barger said.
“I danced for hours on clay to my feet, in front of incredible DJs.”