25th Burning Man Festival Begins Amidst Lawsuit

Burning Man organizers have taken aim at county officials in Nevada over a new ordinance that would raise fees, claiming the First Amendment is in violation.

The annual weeklong music event has taken place on federal land on the Black Rock Desert, 110 miles north of Reno, since 1991. This year, the event starts Aug. 27 and ends on Sept. 3.

Organizers of the event claim that the county's major fee increase could threaten the future of the music event, and they have sought a lawsuit on Thursday. The suit argues that Pershing County has illegally levied new fees against the event.

"We are in danger of ceasing to operate," said executive director and co-founder of Burning Man Larry Harvey of the fees, according to The San Francisco Examiner.

The increases cost "makes it very hard to continue doing business in northern Nevada," Harvey added.

Harvey also noted that Burning Man provides economic opportunity and benefits for the area and that the event contributes to community charity causes, including a free solar project at a nearby hospital.

Burning Man draws over 50,000 participants and operates under the control of the Bureau of Land Management, which is under the U.S. Department of the Interior.

Organizers say receiving the federal permit each year costs about $1.5 million and that it has an agreement with Pershing County to cover the costs for law enforcement surrounding the event.

The Pershing County Commission commented on the suit Friday, saying that Burning Man's reaction to the new ordinance is "replete with misrepresentations, omissions in inaccurate information."

Although the ordinance will not be incurred until October this year and therefore will not affect Burning Man until 2013, the lawsuit is seeking a reimbursement for the money levied on the event this year, though organizers say they will pay the costs incurred by the Sheriff's Office.

A bigger fear is for next year. The suit stated that the county could charge between $60,000 and $80,000 under the festival ordinance next year.

This year, as many as 60,900 participants could arrive in Nevada for Burning Man Monday. The festival celebrates art, music, and self-expression.