Peaceful Burning Man festival ends weeklong run in Nevada

Associated Press/September 4, 2005

Black Rock Desert, Nevada - Thousands of revelers from around the world began heading home Sunday as the annual Burning Man festival drew to a close on the northern Nevada desert.

The counterculture gathering known for offbeat art and games climaxed Saturday night with the traditional torching of a huge neon-and-wooden structure on the Black Rock Desert 120 miles north of Reno.

A total of 29,749 revelers remained at the remote camp at noon Sunday, down from a peak crowd of 35,567. The crowd was slightly up over last year's 35,500, according to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.

BLM spokeswoman Jo Simpson said the 20th annual festival ran smoothly, and no major incidents were reported. Drug arrests and citations were down considerably, according to preliminary reports.

"I think people for the most part acted very responsibly," Simpson said. "All of us got out the word that the law would be enforced."

Authorities said a 29-year-old man collapsed and died Wednesday after complaining of chest pains. Details about his death were unknown, Simpson said.

In 2003, two people died and four were hospitalized with injuries following accidents with aircraft and the Mad-Max-style "mutant vehicles" that roam the desert.

Participants who remain an extra day were set to burn art objects Sunday night.

Hurricane Katrina put a damper on the festival for many participants, including those from the Gulf region.

"My place and everything I love is totally gone," said New Orleans resident Claire Gillis, 21, who lived near a broken levee. "When you leave here, you go back to a different world."

Burning Man organizers collected donations for the relief effort. The festival's Network Operations Center allowed those from the storm-ravaged region to view satellite images of New Orleans.

Anthony Farve of New Orleans said many participants offered to let him stay at their homes. He plans to take them up on the offer and tour California over the next few weeks.

"With nothing to do and all day to do it, I can't go home for at least another month and a half," Farve told the Reno Gazette-Journal.

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