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Along a narrow two-lane highway, a week before the counterculture colossus known as Burning Man would ignite for another year, the faithful were already arriving — howling out of car windows at the midday sun, getting stoked for that Mother of all Parties in the desert. Others draw a line in the sand — like the man who blocked off his driveway, shouting at strangers and scowling at the RV occupants who stopped to stretch their legs.

Burning Man is no run-of-the-mill festival. A combination of Grateful Dead concert and NASCAR rally, the alternative desert party billed as a gathering of artistic self-expression has been thrown here since Known for its outrageous participatory art, New Age ethos and bohemian free-spirit drug culture, capped off with the torching of the symbolic burning man at the 5-square-mile site named Black Rock City.

Yet Gerlach remains a town divided over the annual Burner invasion: Many insist the weeklong festival, which kicks off today, provides necessary, if temporary, jobs for an area that has lost both its gypsum mine and drywall plant.

Festival-related workers who now live here full time, adherents say, will invigorate Gerlach with young families and a fresh way of looking at life. Still, not everyone here is a Burning Man believer. Critics complain of traffic jams from a nonstop party that does little for the town itself.

Officials started selling water after Burners were caught siphoning water from neighborhood hoses. They closed the town park to discourage outsiders without festival tickets who linger around town with no money to eat or rent rooms. And they gripe that property purchases by festival planners — including a trailer park and local hot springs — will change Gerlach from a simple blue-collar town to a pretentious hipster-central community, bringing with it an entitled San Francisco-type vibe. Washoe County Sheriff Chuck Allen said a retired couple recently called to complain that the traffic and noise was ruining the town.

Will Roger, a Burning Man founding board member, maintains Gerlach should welcome the change. Waitress Lacey Holle rushed to fill orders with a welcoming smile. These people are the future. Sitting nearby, Steve Miller — a local resident who also attends the festival every year — sees Burning Man from both sides. A burly man with a thick white beard, he moved here 17 years ago to take a job at a nearby geothermal power plant and has attended Burning Man ever since.

He offered a litany of complaints, saying festival planners have offered little of its much-heralded art for the town and failed to take steps, including using local rail to ship in equipment, to cut down on traffic and accidents along the lone highway into town. He winces at the entitlement exuded by the festival crowd, who, he said, believe they alone are keeping Gerlach alive. Hey, look around, this is the central Nevada desert! Gerlach was here long before you arrived and will still be here when you leave. Down the street at the Burning Man office, set up in a former general store, worker Cameron Hall has also made her mark here; she lives here full time and is now engaged to Jon Farnsworth, who works for the local water board.

Things change. She sighed. Get ready for it. Later, as dusk set in on the festival site, Roger sat on a lounge chair at his base camp on the playa; dressed in black, smoking a Cuban cigar, he surveyed his rising city like a smug Bedouin chieftain. Waving off critics, he said his board was working on all kinds of ways to make Gerlach a better place — to bring new art and jobs, and lessen stress on residents. He insisted that most residents embraced his festival, which he said was good for the town, its economy and the environment.

As he walked out onto the lake bed soon to be overrun by a tribe of countless Burners, he stopped to pick up a cigarette butt. The two-week moving average of new COVID cases dropped more than 10 percent, adding to evidence that the coronavirus is at least temporarily in retreat. A decision from the U. Food and Drug Administration could come within weeks after that.

Fatalities and hospitalizations bucked a trend of improvement in key COVID metrics as the county recorded new coronavirus cases and 28 deaths. Clark County on Wednesday reported new coronavirus cases and 29 additional deaths during the preceding day, the Southern Nevada Health District says. A quilt is warm, soft, inviting, something a grieving family member or still-struggling concertgoer can literally wrap themselves in. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has asked health care providers to be on alert for cases of measles and other infectious diseases in evacuees from Afghanistan.

The residents of the small northern Nevada town have mixed feelings about the annual counterculture event that happens just outside of their town. After attending the Burning Man festival, Hall relocated to the small northern Nevada town several years ago and now works for the organization. A Burning Man parking sticker is seen pasted on a vehicle along highway in Gerlach, Nev. Tuesday, Aug. The residents of the small northern Nevada town have mixed feelings about the annual counterculture event where 70, people are expected to pass though. Michael Hopkins, aka Flash, thinks back on some of the original happenings during the early years of the Burning Man festival, Tuesday, Aug.

Hopkins, who has been part of the annual counterculture event for several decades, calls the small northern Nevada town home. Hopkins, who has been part of the Burning Man Festival for several decades makes the small northern Nevada home part of the year. Schatzi Gambrell, right, speaks about the Burning Man festival while loading crates with food with her assistant Melissa Edgecomb at the senior citizen center in Gerlach, Nev.

A worker lo portable buildings for transport in Gerlach, Nev. Dozens of buildings and trailers are staged in the small northern Nevada town before they are delivered to the Black Rock Desert for the annual Burning Man festival. A women who gave her name as the Kitchen Wench, right, fills barrels with water sold by water department volunteer Cindy Carter in Gerlach, Nev. The town began selling water directly to "burners" several years ago after dealing with nuisance issues during the annual Burning Man festival. A man crosses highway as he he to a last chance bazaar in Gerlach, Nev.

Ribbons block access to a driveway as a semi-trailer truck travels along highway as it passes through Gerlach, Nev. Seventy thousand people and thousands of vehicles are expected to travel though this small and quiet northern Nevada town in route to the annual counterculture Burning Man festival. A is seen posted at a small park in Gerlach, Nev. The town has begun closing its local park along the highway after years of dealing with nuisance issues during the annual Burning Man festival. A camper van travels along highway as it enters Gerlach, Nev.

Seventy thousand people are expected to travel though this small and quiet northern Nevada town in route to the annual counterculture Burning Man festival. Trucks with trailers travel along highway through Gerlach, Nev. Seventy thousand people are expected to travel though the small and quiet northern Nevada town in route to the annual counterculture Burning Man festival.

Peterson has been part of the annual counterculture event for over 20 years and makes Gerlach, Nev. A vendor sells her ware as the sunset in Empire, Nev. Residents of the small northern Nevada towns of Empire and its neighbor, Gerlach, have mixed feelings about the annual counterculture event where 70, people are expected to pass though.

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