Burning Man Canceled, Replaced by Virtual Event Amid Coronavirus Outbreak

Burning Man Festival in Nevada - September 2000 -  Getty-H 2019
Hector Mata/AFP/Getty Images

Organizers warn that to keep the festival going without ticket sales will require "substantial staff layoffs, pay reductions and other belt-tightening measures."

Like so many other major events this year, Burning Man has officially been canceled.

Organizers of the annual event — which was initially set to run Aug. 30-Sept. 7 — wrote Friday night on the Burning Man Project blog that "after much listening, discussion, and careful consideration, we have made the difficult decision not to build Black Rock City in 2020. Given the painful reality of COVID-19, one of the greatest global challenges of our lifetimes, we believe this is the right thing to do. Yes, we are heartbroken."

The annual weeklong festival, which usually involves building and taking down an ephemeral encampment called Black Rock City in the Nevada desert, will instead be recreated in what organizers call "The Multiverse." The organizers explained, "We look forward to welcoming you to Virtual Black Rock City 2020. We’re not sure how it’s going to come out; it will likely be messy and awkward with mistakes. It will also likely be engaging, connective and fun."

Those who have bought tickets for the annual Black Rock Desert-set event will be refunded, though Burning Man organizers suggest that those who can do so donate their regular ticket amount to The Burning Man Project to keep the organization alive. Organizers warn that to keep the event going will require "substantial staff layoffs, pay reductions and other belt-tightening measures."

Temporary financial woes notwithstanding, the festival said that the upcoming online event will be "a chance to explore new ways of connecting and convening online ..., deepen our commitment to environmental sustainability, realign our partnership with the Bureau of Land Management, and create new and meaningful pathways for the community to connect and collaborate."