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Over 10,000 people expected to attend unofficial Burning Man festival this weekend

The official festival was cancelled earlier this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic

While this year's Burning Man festival might be officially cancelled, that isn't stopping some ardent partygoers from heading out to the event's usual Northern Nevada site this weekend for an unofficial and unauthorised celebration in its place.

Officials at the Bureau of Land Management - which controls Black Rock Desert, where Burning Man usually takes place the week - estimate that around 10,000 people could head to the site this week for a non-ticketed event that's widely being referred to as "Free Burn" and "Renegade Burn", as well as other various non-official titles.

Lands managed by the Black Rock Field Office (BRFO) are available for the public to use year-round, with a 14-day limit to recreational use and camping, meaning that such an event can likely go ahead.

However, the Bureau of Land Management has put a number of temporary restrictions in place, which will remain until 31st October. Those restrictions include a ban on the ignition of fires other than a campfire, as well as bans on the burning of structures, building of structures, and possession and/or use of lasers. 

As most Burning Man attendees will know, these restrictions will mean that this year's unofficial event will be very different to usual editions of the festival, which usually involve plenty of fire and lasers, as well as the building of intricate stage structures and much more. Burning Man usually also has an airstrip for on-site arrivals, which will not be allowed this year either.

Heather O'Hanlon, Public affairs specialist at Winnemucca District Office Bureau of Land Management, said that people had already begun arriving at the Black Rock Desert site as early as 20th August, but while around 10,000 people are expected, the number could ultimately fall significantly short of that due to poor air quality in the area following a series of fires.

Wth Burning Man's organisers having confirmed plans to call off this year's official event in April of this year, a virtual edition was announced in its place, which is currently running until 7th September.

Organisers hope to fully return in 2022, with the last edition of Burning Man having taken place in 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic wreaked havoc on event plans across the world.