On Saturday morning, Burning Man co-founder Larry Harvey died in a hospital in San Francisco, California. Harvey was 70-years-old and was surrounded by family at the time of his passing. The actual cause of death has yet to be determined, however, Harvey had suffered a massive stroke earlier this month, according to CBS News.
Harvey, alongside co-founder John Law, began Burning Man in 1986 on Baker Beach in San Francisco. The idea behind Burning Man was to commemorate the beginning of the summer solstice. The festival grew over the next four years and was then relocated in 1990 to Black Rock Desert in Nevada, just 100 miles outside of Reno where it continues to be held each year. The event takes place over the span of the week before Labor Day and has grown to attract over 70,000 attendees coined as, “Burners.” A large, wooden man is burned at the end of the week to celebrate the ending of the festival, which has become a cultural phenomenon for spiritual guidance, self-expression, and art.
“Larry was never one for labels. He didn’t fit a mold; he broke it with the way he lived his life. He was 100% authentic to his core,” praised his long-time friend and Burning Man CEO, Marion Goodell, on the organization’s website.
A tribute to Harvey was also posted on Burning Man’s Instagram.
Tickets for the event sell out very quickly and don’t come cheap. One ticket to Burning Man can range anywhere from $425 to $1,200. Attendees have to bring their own food, their own shelter, and whatever other accommodations they might need.
In 2013, Harvey turned Burning Man into a nonprofit and employed only 70 people and maintained a budget of $30 million, which was spent solely on the festival. He also came up with “10 principles” to ensure Burning Man would run smoothly and be hailed as a good time by all. Some of the principles laid out included, “interacting and sharing unselfishly with one another, developing self-reliance and leaving the desert landscape unspoiled” at the festival’s completion, as reported by CBS News.
Although Burning Man is perceived by most as a glorious celebration, the event has run into some trouble during its existence. Last year, a man died after running into the burning flames and suffering burns on almost his entire body. In 2007, a man was charged with arson after setting the Burning Man ablaze four days early. In 1996, a man was killed when his motorcycle and a van carrying festival-goers collided. That same year, three other people were injured when a drunk driver ran over their tent. The events in 1996 are what ultimately led Harvey and Law to dissolve their partnership, with Harvey maintaining complete control.
Harvey remained president of the Burning Man’s board as well as “chief philosophic officer” and was heavily involved in the planning of every year’s Burning Man festival until the time of his death.