AZ Burners Canceled Saguaro Man — Here's Why

Kevin Price
The Plaid Man Burn at Saguaro Man 2019.
Saguaro Man organizers are nixing this year’s Burning Man-style event, just weeks after announcing it was a go. Instead of holding the event from October 13 to 17 this year, they’re hoping it’ll come together for May 2022.

The AZ Burners leadership team announced their decision on August 31, issuing a written statement noting that their earlier decision to proceed with the festival met with mixed reactions.

“Since that decision, we have seen Saguaro Man become a source of division and pain,” they wrote. “That is not what any of us want our community or Saguaro Man to be about.”

“I don’t think it’s much [of a] surprise,” Kristin Wesley told Phoenix New Times in a September 2 e-mail. Wesley serves on the leadership team, but spoke on her own behalf. “We tried, but have come to the ultimate conclusion that this is not the best time to host Saguaro Man.”

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Goosby Relativity Cruiser Time Vortex at Saguaro Man 2019.
Kevin Price
This year's Burning Man is happening virtually, rather than at Black Rock City in the Nevada desert, due to concerns about COVID-19.

“We have had to adapt to the twists and turns of a global crisis, complex public health information, and the growing hope that we can start rebuilding our lives together soon,” a statement reads on the Burning Man website.

The latest Saguaro Man news comes amid a cascade of other cancellations, including Oktoberfest at Tempe Town Lake and the Arizona Taco Festival at Salt River Fields. Event organizers have cited both COVID-19 impacts and possible government regulations as reasons for those cancellations.

The Saguaro Man announcement didn’t mention COVID-19, although that’s clearly been a factor in the decision-making process.

Their previous announcement issued on August 6 indicated that the event would have “multiple COVID related precautions/restrictions,” and acknowledged that public health conditions were in flux.

“We have a rapidly changing and very fluid situation, so our plans today are based on where we are now, and where we hope we will be by October,” they wrote in early August. “As the situation evolves, plans can change.”

“There has [sic] been hours and hours of meetings and conversations with volunteers and the community to figure out if we have the resources to make the event happen safely,” Wesley says of discussions undertaken during the last month.

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Inside The Temple of Renewal at Saguaro Man 2017.
Kevin Price
Ultimately, organizers decided against holding the event.

And they’re taking this opportunity to consider the decision in its wider context, including a set of 10 Burning Man principles that includes communal effort and civic responsibility.

“There is much to learn about this last month in terms of listening and communicating,” organizers wrote in their August 31 statement. “We call on everyone to work on listening and seeking to understand the other.”

Organizers expect to make an announcement soon regarding ticket refunds or rollovers. In the meantime, mark your calendars for May 2022. But maybe use a pencil, just in case.