Brigid Rankowski, of Portland, left Burning Man on Monday afternoon but said she was not “stuck” before she caught a bus to Reno. Photo courtesy of Brigid Rankowski

Despite what she read online, Brigid Rankowski didn’t consider herself in any way to be stuck.

It’s true the Portland resident was among the estimated 70,000 people at Burning Man in Nevada who were unable to leave until Monday – at the earliest – after torrential rains rendered the main roads impassible. But while national media were reporting that festivalgoers were stuck in the mud and being told to conserve food and water, Rankowski said Monday before her eventual departure that she had plenty to eat and drink and found her fellow “Burners” to be in good spirits.

She got to the festival on Aug. 26 and had already been planning to leave Monday, so when the main roads in and out of the site were closed Saturday, it didn’t really affect her plans much.

Event organizers said Monday afternoon that they had started to let traffic flow out of the main road around 2 p.m. local time – even as they urged attendees to delay their exit to help ease traffic. About two hours after the mass departure began, organizers estimated a wait time of about five hours.

Rankowski said Monday evening she had left the festival and was bound for Reno via bus.

Because her cellphone reception was spotty in the remote Nevada desert, Rankowski answered questions about her Burning Man experience via Facebook on Monday. She said that from what she’s read, “it’s clear some of the crisis is being greatly exaggerated.”


“I don’t know of anyone who has run out of water or food (or booze). We bring in what we need, but also help out each other,” wrote Rankowski, 34, who works as an autism content creator. “This is my first time at Burning Man and I will absolutely come back. Yes, it’s muddy here, but I was prepared for a variety of conditions on site. As a Mainer, I’m not afraid of the cold or mud.”

Brigid Rankowski said that while Burning Man festival in Nevada was muddy, as a Mainer, she’s used to mud. Photo courtesy of Brigid Rankowski

Burning Man is an annual, nine-day event in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert “dedicated to community, art, self-expression, and participation,” according to its website. It’s a temporary city, built in the desert by artists and makers, with no headliner or schedule of performers. “Burners” do art installations, perform, build and connect.

A highlight of the event, the burning of the man – a huge large wooden man at the center of a towering bonfire – was scheduled for Sunday but had to be postponed because of gusty winds and possible thunderstorms, organizers announced on the Burning Man website. It was rescheduled for Monday at 9 p.m. local time.

Rankowski, who is also a fire spinner, said she decided to go to Burning Man – by herself – after being in a car accident five years ago. She said she wanted to prove to herself “that I can do anything” – and going to the event was part of that for her.

It’s unclear how many Mainers were at Burning Man this year. The Maine Burning Man Society Facebook group has 680 members, according to Medusa Berry, the group’s administrator. She said she was only aware of two members who went this year: Rankowski and another person who left before the roads were closed.

Road closures and delays at Burning Man didn’t stop Brigid Rankowski from having a good time. Photo courtesy of Brigid Rankowski

Rankowski camped in a tent at Burning Man, staying with a group of “established, long-time Burners” who have been to the event many times and know how things work. She said that since the rains, she’s still been able to walk around the temporary city and take in its events. She said Monday morning that she was able to walk around and offer protein bars to people.

“It’s muddy, but I’ve been walking around the past few days and it’s not the worst in the world. We absolutely have enough food, water, and resources. No one is starving or dying, except for those who went out partying last night and are nursing hangovers,” Rankowski wrote. “I’ve heard more stress from people not here compared to people here on site.

“Everyone I’ve met has been handling things with as much humor and lightheartedness as possible.”

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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