Nonconformists and pyromaniacs from all over flocked to Reno, Nevada this Labor Day weekend to take part in the traditional Burning Man counterculture arts festival in desert. Attendance on Saturday was up about 21 percent from last year’s peak crowd. About 47,097 people showed up to watch artistic expressions burn in the usually remote area of the Black Rock Desert about 120 miles outside of the city.

On Saturday night, the climax of the event took place with the burning of a 40-foot wooden human figure known as “The Man,” indicating a freedom from society’s rules. Four days earlier, a man from San Francisco was arrested for lighting The Man figure too early, but those at the festival rebuilt it in time for the appropriate time slot.

Despite this seemingly hostile practice, no major problems were reported by authorities in the area throughout the weeklong event. Dust storms were the biggest disrupter of the festivities. At one point on Thursday and Friday, the dust created white-outs which forced the participants to seek shelter. Participants could also see smoke from a 75-acre wildfire burning at the base of Melody Mountain about 15 to 20 miles away, but the fire was far enough away that it did not disturb them either.

Another highlight of the event was “Crude Awakening,” the largest structure ever built for the festival. Crude Awakening is a wooden oil derrick that will shoot out a 1,000 foot flame. It is meant to represent the country’s dependence on oil. This highlights this year’s theme known as “Green Man.”

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