Burning Man 2019: Town of Gerlach population 200 adapts to influx of 80,000 Burners

Reno Gazette Journal – By Jenny Kane – Aug. 26, 2019

There’s a lot that goes into preparing a 200-person town for 80,000 people.

Put away the trash cans. Take the ravioli off the menu. Stock up on groceries and gas.

“It takes a lot of adapting,” said John “Farmer” Farmsworth, a former alfalfa farmer who’s lived in Gerlach for 47 years.

Gerlach, a half-mile-long town two hours north of Reno and just west of where Burning Man takes place each year, has become adept at adjusting its sails to the annual hurricane that is Burning Man.

A lot of little things happen that most Burners wouldn’t notice, but the locals sure do.

Burning Man-bound? Nevada locals are asking Burners for a little R-E-S-P-E-C-T

When the Burners come to town, the raviolis come off the menu of Bruno’s Country Club in Gerlach – the only restaurant in town besides the one café.

“(Bruno’s ravioli) are world famous, but the ravioli take forever, like 30 minutes. If one plate comes out then everyone wants it. We just can’t do that,” said Myriah Keesee, a bartender and waitress at Bruno’s Country Club.

The prices also come off the menu since the bar and diner serve up specialty items – such as portobello mushroom burgers – that they don’t normally offer. Locals get charged local prices, but Burners get charged a little more since the business has to go through more trouble – more travel, more traffic, more cost for fancier items — to feed them.

Store inventories, school schedules changed

The inventory for the grocery store down the road also changes. There’s a whole lot more kombucha and coconut water on the shelves. The store owner invested more than $10,000 in making a new dirt parking lot and about $5,000 just on porta-potties to accommodate all the Burners.

“I hope it’s worth it,” said Dana Sparkes, who’s owned the store for nine years.

The schedule for the local school changes as well – school children take their break during Burning Man, earlier than other students in Nevada to ensure they don’t have to cross the street in the midst of the annual swarm of Burners.

A lot of local folks avoid driving altogether – even to the grocery store is 6-miles down the road. It can take hours to drive just a mile when plans go awry, like the fatal accident on Sunday that had traffic halted up for hours.

“I’ve never been, it’s not my cup of tea,” said Vicki Williams, who’s lived in Gerlach for 30 years and cracked a Pabst Blue Ribbon in the sun to watch the parade of Burners go by in school buses, RVs, even a liquid silver Lamborghini.

“Sometimes there’s nothing else to do,” said Williams of watching the parade.

Even the cowboys free up some time during the mass migration of Burners. They come to town sometimes to “tease the hippies,” said Cindy Davenport, a bartender at the Miners Club bar.

“They like to stir shit up,” said Davenport. “They been working for three to four months on the ranch. We say they come to town and they either want to fight or f***. There’s not a lot of options for the first, so it’s usually the other.”

Some of the cowboys have temporary restraining orders, Davenport says, where they are prohibited from coming to Gerlach bars during this week specifically.

“Somebody sees one piece of a trash, and it turns into a truckload. One person is one person, but 80,000…”

The Miners Club, which daylights as a café, stocks up on chai, almond milk and soy milk. Some stuff they don’t have, including cigarettes and fresh fruit.

Most of the businesses hide away their trash cans; otherwise they’ll overflow with the trash that Burners save up during their road trip.

“Don’t litter, and don’t poop in my yard,” said Davenport, her two main gripes with that “5 percent” of Burners who give the vast majority of Burners a bad name.

It’s not just the Burners that come during the event; vendors change up the scene too with their sparkly backpacks and faux fur frocks.

The vendors also bring new cuisine. While Bruno’s is the go-to the rest of the year, there is Chinese food, organic smoothies, artisan pizza, fresh kale salad and gluten vegan options.

Read entire article here

PS Burning Man gifts all residents of Gerlach with free admission & car pass to the event.

Posted by Teri Perticone

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