San Francisco suppliers such as REI and Piedmont Boutique said they are seeing an increase in this year’s Burning Man-related sales from 2009.
“I think a lot more people are going this year. They seem to be very into it again,” Piedmont Boutique owner Uti said.
The costume store in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury neighborhood opened in 1972 and has sold to Burning Man customers since the festival’s inception in 1986.
“I think everybody was in shock last year. They’ve kind of settled now,” Uti said. “We all need an escape into Utopia now and again.”
Attendees of the festival, which is held in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert, are expected to bring supplies for both their creative and essential needs.
Along with tents and food, people often bring a range of tools and accessories to aid their creative expression.
“We sell a lot of glitzy pieces, goggles, hologram clothes, and costumes that light up,” Uti said. “They can be very artistic.”
Uti said she’s seen about the same number of customers this year as she did in 2008.
About 49,500 people attended the festival in 2008, according to the Burning Man website.
Store managers don’t know exactly how well sales are going this year, but they’re reporting an increase since 2009, when the festival saw its first decline in attendance because of the recession.
“We ran out of anything that holds water this year,” San Francisco REI store manager Doug Tracey said. “We sell a lot of tents, tent stakes, shelters, and goggle-related items because of the dust.”
Paul Scott, a first-time attendee of Burning Man, said he plans to charter a flight out of Palo Alto with three others attending the event.
“If we didn’t fly, it would be hours of driving in the heat, and I don’t have that kind of time,” he said.
Scott, a lawyer who has lived in San Francisco for 15 years, said he has a friend who bought an RV specifically for this year’s event. For his own lodging, Scott plans to rent a yurt, which is a home structure that is popular in nomadic culture.
“It’s better than a tent, but still inadequate if you had the big bad wolf outside your door,” he said.
Adam Jacobowitz, a Bay Area resident of two years, said he plans to bring only basic camping gear pieces and one or two quirky outfits.
“The first year I went, I bought a skirt and bonnet from the women’s section in a thrift store, but I really only have a couple weird outfits,” he said.
Jacobowitz thinks he spent about $400 for the event, including transportation, food, and shelter.
Tickets for Burning Man are $300 if bought from certain locations and $360 at the event itself, according to the event website.
The festival typically incorporates an art theme, and this year’s is “Metropolis: The Life of Cities,” according to the event website.
The festival is known for its multi-story art installations and different art demonstrations.
A 70-foot-tall, fire-breathing pink flamingo is scheduled to be at the festival this year, according to one of the attendees.
Every year, a wooden man is constructed for the festival and burned near the end of the week.
This year’s festival goes from Aug. 30 to Sept. 6.
Not everyone has been able to pay for Burning Man this year due to tough economic times.
“It’s not that much for a week-long vacation, but it’s still a decent amount of money,” said Jess Marks-Gale, a Bay Area resident of two years. She has gone to the festival three times before but couldn’t spare the money this year.
Others think the event is worth the price even if the finances are difficult to manage.
“It’s not about the money,” said Jacobowitz, who has been to the event just once previously. “Being in nature in such harsh conditions among people being so free and organic is just incredible.”