In late June, 1986, Larry Harvey and Jerry James joined a handful of friends on San Francisco's Baker Beach in search of radical self-expression. They didn't come empty-handed.
Earlier that day, Harvey and James had collected scrap wood and built an eight-foot statue of a man. Later that night, the two hoisted it up and set it on fire. A crowd of 20 formed to watch it burn. Little did they know that a 31-year tradition had just been born.
Today, Burning Man draws more than 60,000 people to Nevada's Black Rock Desert. Over the course of a dusty, freewheeling week in late August, the festival celebrates notions of self-expression, civic responsibility, and art.
This year's Burning Man will be held from August 28 to September 5. Here's a look back at how one of the world's most surreal, iconic festivals came to be.
For the first three years of Burning Man, the festival was held on San Francisco's Baker Beach. By 1989, however, Golden Gate Park Police had learned of the event and prohibited any actual burning. The event was a fire hazard, they said.
In 1990, Harvey and James decided to relocate to the second-largest and flattest piece of land in the US: Nevada's Black Rock Desert. At first, people didn't really know what to do once they got there. Some found hot springs. Others played music. But by the end, the 40-foot statue still burned.
By 1997, the secret of Burning Man was out. Wired called it the "New American Holiday" and CNN dubbed it "the world's most dangerous art festival."