Fire season

Burning Girl

Greeter Alon Barr puts sticks of wood inside the “Burning Girl.”

Greeter Alon Barr puts sticks of wood inside the “Burning Girl.”


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This 4th of July weekend, hundreds will dance, look at art, clean up after themselves, be tolerant, possibly partake in mind-altering substances, and engage in other tenets of Burning Man. But this event is Burning Girl, and in contrast to Burning Man’s young, nearly naked bodies writhing to electronic beats on the barren dry Black Rock Desert playa, Burning Girl is happening in an oasis, it is family-friendly and it’s free: “Uh, yeah, it’s a gift to the community,” says Rod Coleman, one of the coordinators for the party on 120 acres of private land in Yerington.

This is the party’s sixth year, but this time the owners of the land have reached out for a little more Burner power. Coleman says the owners contacted him: “They said, ’You might want a break in the middle of the burn season, and so we would like to invite some Burners out and have some Burner art,” Coleman said.

The event website,, shows there will be art cars and bands. Water is provided, as well as showers, RV hook-ups, theme camps, volleyball, old-time movie-making sets, massages, a swing set and hiking trails. A video on the site shows a Nevada-centric feel from floating on a river to small groups listening to jazz and folksy music.

Burning Girl has a lot at its disposal because so many Burning Man volunteers, artists and employees live in Reno. Many of the organizing characteristics are the same as the older event, like the groups of volunteers that operate the entrance and the theme camps.

This is the latest of many Burner parties that have sprung up world-wide. They range from events in Africa, Spain and Texas that draw thousands, to small house parties throughout the United States. In the Northern Nevada area, they include Reno’s organized Decompression and Compression events to Susanville’s Permaburn and a number of private parties in Minden thoughout the year.

While it is easy to attribute the infectious spread of Burning Man to its artistic spectacle, organizers say what is really spreading is something less tangible: Attitude.

“Look at modern society, there are pluses and minuses,” Coleman says. “And when you look at Burning Man a lot of those minuses drop away. There is a lot more tolerance for people’s expression.”

Expression, tolerance and de-commodification are part of that attitude.

“It is the opposite of a gated community. That is to define the demographic and what color you paint the door. We paint the door any color. It is kind of a reaction to the gated community.”

The popularity of “inclusion” can not be understated. Word of mouth about these parties spreads quickly and that leads to events taking on a life of their own, and, in some cases, dying.

“At this point there is no next year,” Coleman says. “We are not trained to promote this thing.”

The absence of promotion also leads to a perception that these events are secret or exclusive because many people don’t learn about them until after the fact. Registration for Burning Girl is already closed. They’ve reached the 500-person limit. Many question why there are limits on events that are based on inclusion.

“That is a matter of not wanting the thing to grow too rapidly, and there are neighbors, and we are trying to respect that,” Coleman said, adding that there are organization and infrastructure questions that are essential to the longevity of an event. “That is what happened with Woodstock, and it just got totally out of control.”