May 9, 2021

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Tribe welcomes cancellation of Burning Man festival: ‘It’s a sigh of relief’


A tribe in Utah says the cancellation of the 2021 Burning Man festival for another year has inspired a “sigh of relief”.

The chairwoman of the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe in Utah, Janet Davis, told NPR she welcomed the cancellation of the event that draws tens of thousands to the Black Rock Desert annually.

“For us it is a sigh of relief,” said the chairwoman. “We don’t know who’s vaccinated and who’s not. We’ve been trying to keep our reservation safe and that happening was too soon for us to open.”

Burning Man attendees, according to Ms Davis, “moseyed on through and moseyed on out” of the Pyramid Lake Paiute Reservation en route to the event.

The tribe, NPR reported, is closed to outside visitors in an attempt to reduce the threat of Covid tearing through the reservation.

“You’re not talking about 65 — 75,000 people,” Ms Davis added, in reference to the increase in traffic through tribal lands to reach the Black Rock Desert.

For organisers of the annual festival of counter-culture, Covid was also a cause for concern, with Burning Man facing a number of “uncertainties” that could not be resolved in time for the 26 August start.

The CEO of Burning Man, Marian Goodell, said in a blog post on Tuesday that although the rate of vaccination in the US and in Utah was rising, the “difficult decision” to cancel the event for the second year in a row was “based on the best information available to us”.

While fans of the festival were left dismayed, Ms Goodell added that “building community is what Burners do best. [But] we also recognise the pandemic is not over”.

It follows the cancellation of the 2020 event and growing calls for Burning Man to be scaled-back by locals.

Before the announcement, organisers indicated that the 2021 festival would be capped to 69,000 attendees — down from 80,000 before — and that they were considering requiring attendees to prove Covid vaccination.

The first edition of Burning Man took place in 1986, with recent editions attracting a number of billionaires, including Telsa founder Elon Musk and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, who were reported at recent festivals.