Reno Puts Out the Welcome Mat for Burning Man

Once dreaded by some, attendees with money to burn are now eagerly awaited by local businesses

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RENO, Nev.—The self-proclaimed “Biggest Little City in the World” is embracing a new role: gateway to Burning Man.

Some 70,000 people are estimated to gather to create a temporary city in the desert at the nine-day event beginning Aug. 27 that features art installations, music and people in quirky costumes. Reno is just 100 miles away, and many “Burners,” as they call themselves, will stop here to stock up on everything from dust masks to solar-powered showers.

For some local businesses, the influx is like Christmas in August.

The Melting Pot World Emporium, which stocks the goggles, masks and other accouterments that Burners favor, now counts on sales related to the event for 65% of its annual revenue, said co-owner Eric Baron.

“For us, it’s Christmas times 10,” Mr. Baron said last week as the first wave of local Burners began trickling in.

At Junkee Local Exchange, which carries used costumes and other Burner-type gear, August has eclipsed the October Halloween season as its biggest month, said manager Nichole Paul. The Burners spend an average of $300 to $400 each at the store, with some shelling out as much as $3,000. “It gets so busy in here we have to open a pop-up shop with two extra cash registers,” Ms. Paul said.

Locals weren’t always so welcoming to Burning Man. Burners sometimes drew complaints of bringing too much dirt and dust into town. The money that goes into the community now, though, has helped change that.

“People don’t thumb their noses at all now,” said Ken Hines, a Reno neon lighting artist who now spends two months out of the year working on Burning Man art projects. “They like the money.” (Click to Site)

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