There has always been a segment of society that feels constrained by the social norms of their day. These people like to push the envelope. Sometimes that means into a negative direction, sometimes into a positive and more natural direction, sometimes just into a crazy direction.
Burning Man and Saguaro Man seem to fall into all three categories at once. These festivals are reminiscent of the by-gone hippie era. I don’t know if we could call them neauveau-flower-child, but we can certainly say that they long for music, nature, and a bit of wild rebellions thrown in as well.
A seven-day affair that is held each year in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert, Burning Man begins on the last Monday in August and ends on the first Monday of September. Considered to be an experiment in community, art and self-expression, the event gets its name from the burning of “The Man,” a giant 40-foot wooden effigy that is set on fire on Saturday evening. Other pieces of artwork are commonly burned during the week as well. The event has a very interesting origin.
Image courtesy Wikimedia
Because of the event’s remote desert location, Burning Man attendees are expected to be self-reliant and bring their own food and supplies for their stay. While the vast desert area is not inhabited by humans throughout the rest of the year, it is home to various plants and animals, hence the Burning Man’s Leave No Trace policy—anything and everything that people bring with them, artwork included, is expected to leave with them. Surviving and thriving in the hot desert sun for several days with limited resources isn’t an easy task, but Burning Man enthusiasts prove that it is possible. Perhaps Burning Man provides strength.
Saguaro Man: Arizona’s Answer to Burning Man
Burning Man has grown in popularity from a few dozen people in its early years to over 50,000 in 2010, and similar festivals are now being held in other cities to help ease the crowds and spread knowledge of the event. A legal “Letter of Agreement” is required in order for a burn to be officially considered a Burning Man Regional Event. Saguaro Man, an official regional burn, occurs at the Double Dolphin Farm near Snowflake, AZ.
Its creators and attendees are known as the AZ Burners. The Burners are traditional artists, performance artists, musicians and Burning Man enthusiasts, many of whom also trek to the annual Black Rock Desert event.
There is much more to Saguaro Man than fire and flame. Life-size sculptures and other artwork creations, musical jam sessions, sock puppet construction and even clothing exchanges are activities in which attendees participate. Vending and the exchange of cash is prohibited; music and art can be gifted to others but not sold. Respect is always a key aspect of Saguaro Man and other Burning Man-type festivals. Participants are expected to respect others and their beliefs as well as the Earth and the land.
Other Arizona Outdoor Music Alternatives
Saguaro Man is a four-day festival of community, art, music and more, but it is not a perfect fit for everyone. If you enjoy art and music in outdoor environments yet are uncomfortable with the idea of living with strangers in the desert for four days, attending an event or performance at the Mesa Amphitheater may be better suited to your tastes.
Image courtesy Clintus
Concerts and various day-long outdoor festivals are held at the Amp, and the Mesa Arts Center features various outdoor gathering areas, providing the opportunity to enjoy music and the arts in nature without the culture shock of Saguaro Man.
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License: Creative Commons
Carrie Thompson works with Phoenix LockMaster, situated in amazing Arizona, where the music is as hot as the desert sun.