whatisburningman sectional graphic

LARRY HARVEY'S 1997 SPEECH

LH: Now our story as planners, we plan and plan and plan so this spontaneous thing that you just do will happen. And our experience has been pretty... has been tough this year. Because as planners... as planners we've had to look at our economic realities. There's boundless wealth out here, look at... everybody's giving everything to anybody else, I've never seen anything like it. Boundless wealth. But in order to do the planning, of course we need money. Of course we need money.

Now, when we came in to the county, we talked to the service... we talked to the agencies, the police, and the fire folks and so forth, and I have no complaints of them. None. They... they're in the same business as us. If you organize something this wild you'd better be responsible. You'd better think about people every minute of the day. They're people who've worked in the field and they know what they're talking about and we learned a lot from them.

The only problem is something interrupted that process. You know, our first conversations with them, we were on the same wavelength. And then the politicians got involved. Now a politician is someone who spends all of their time... trying to avoid being blamed for anything and trying to take credit for everything else. That's what they do for a living.

[ cheers, applause ]

LH: So there was what we call a caucus. And after that caucus things started to change. Suddenly... suddenly the reasonable arrangements we had made, out of mutual concern for public welfare... oh, those discussions... weren't possible now.


about this photo
Now we're talking by the book and literal. Now we're talking about... suddenly as we went on in this process we were talking about, we were talking about mandated services that we couldn't bid out. That we got lower... way lower bids for. We couldn't bid out. And then we were talking about... well, it goes on and on. I won't burden you with it. Have you ever dealt with a bureaucracy, you know... it reminds me, kind of, what happens, you know, when you go to a house in the night and the dog comes out, there's this moment... between whether... he can't decide whether he's going to lick your hand or bite it? And I've found generally that if you feed a dog with your hand, he won't bite you. But we felt at times as if we were in the curious position of feeding the dog and getting bit at the same time.

Well. There is all this that... we have a... well, the sheriff's out there, and the sheriff's not our enemy. He's doing what he's told. He's enforcing the law. For your information, the deputies, and sheriffs, and fire people they're having the time of their lives, and the only thing we're worried about is, they have such a good time, they want to come back.

[ laughter, clapping ]

LH: And you know, he's been flying around, and we started to resent it, and then we realized he was starting to take up reporters, you know, I think, he's playing with his toy and trying to help us at the same time. And... and... so... they're not our enemies.

But they're taking a bite out of us that's a third of a million dollars. Now in a reasonable world, and in a just world, that sum would have been considerably lower. And everybody in this county knows it.

[ applause, cheers, cries of "Right on!" ]

LH: People working for county services will take me aside, and one gal, and I won't tell you her name, or even give you her description, and she said "You know, I'm not supposed to say this, but... you made one mistake when you came here."

And I said "What's that?"

And she said "Well... bringing it to Washoe County."

[ laughter, cries of "Amen!" ]

LH: We've got... we love Washoe County. We love the people of Washoe County. Listen, we go to barbecues in Gerlach.

[ applause ]

LH: Out here, the ice concession, we don't vend, but you may have noticed there's a Frontier Store, do you know where that money goes? That money goes to Gerlach and Empire, that's for the school kids there.

[ applause, cheers ]

LH: Only way we could have made the money that they were asking is if we filled this place with cotton candy and rides and people reaching for their wallets. And then we would have had the same trouble that they had at "Hot August Days and Nights," that was subsidized by the county. 482 arrests. A stabbing. No arrests here. You seen a stabbing?

[ applause, cheers ]

LH: So when the dust settles on this, an anybody asks you if we're locusts... no, you tell them we're human beings.

[ applause, cheers ]

LH: So I'm gonna make a pitch... I'm speaking as a planner now. This is an economy... this here is a potlatch world, an economy of superabundance. People just giving everything... you know, most... most of the people here... the ticket price is the merest fraction of what they've spent already. You know, you see a semi come in, and we didn't pay for that.

[ laughter ]

LH: So... but thinking as... as planners, then... we have to crouch down, and think about... we been crouching in our trailer, had a little conference, "What are we gonna do?" We haven't made our nut yet, they are still out there at that gate. They collect all our money. They put our receipts in a box, they lock it up. Until their commission get paid, and they haven't been paid yet, we don't know if they're gonna get paid. If they're not paid they'll call us locusts again. They'll say they were right. Having posed excessive costs...

Listen. I'd love to come back here. This is the... 1991 they had a... they drafted the recreation permit, and it's never been applied for, so we're the shakedown cruise, unfortunately. And we worked well with the agencies. And... and they've educated us, and now we can turn around and educate them about what makes sense and what doesn't. You know?

[ applause ]

LH: They had a plan, but if you want to make God laugh, make a plan. You're gonna pay attention to things and we've all learned a lot here. We would like to come back but the only way we can come back to Washoe County, and to all the friends we've made out here, is if we get a little more help.


about this photo
Now I know you all spent a lot to come out here. Henrik Haeckl, who did the giant shell out there, the ammonite, he came from Germany. He arrived here, he had forty dollars left in his pocket and a giant shell.

[ laughter ]

LH: You all ought to go out and see it.

So we're making a plea, because... no one else is going to help us right now. I don't think there's an angel in the wings, really. I think... if there are any angels present... if there are any angels present they are among us.

So having paid your... if you were early, it was fifty... we had to double our prices this year... well, you have some inkling as to why we had to do it... so having paid that, if you can come up with an extra five, an extra ten... you know, we're gonna make a... structured offer, I feel like a pitch man... if you give us... if you give us... a hundred dollars you get a ticket to next year, you just have to believe it'll happen next year, and that's an act of faith...

[ cheers, applause ]

LH: If anybody wants to give us five, five hundred dollars, they are lifetime Burning Man. They can come forever.

[ more cheers, applause ]

LH: It's about all we can think of, to do... if we get the help... I think... you know, in a way, in this corner of my mind, I'm glad this happened. Because, you know, we were getting bigger, and you know how it goes. People would start saying "Oh, they're big, they're bloated, they don't care, they're just exploiting us"... you know, that kind of thing. People are so afraid when things get big... and... this year, this has been one big survival drama from the beginning. If you're all trying to survive out there in your tents, we're surviving too.

So if you can help us, I'd really appreciate it. We've got a box over here, where's the box? There's the box. We've got a ranger volunteer... I don't believe that these funds can be seized.

[ laughter, applause ]

LH: If you can help us out, help pay off people... maybe pay a few of the people who work for us, were the last... is Joegh Bullock here? Where is he? Where's Cowboy Joegh? Joegh's gonna step up and give you a pep talk about it, and... were asking you to save Burning Man, and if you want to see it... continue to live... only you can help us. You're the only ones we know who to go to. Thanks a lot.

[ lots of cheers and applause ]
[the end]