Knowing Nevada: Rural town population somewhere between 200 and 70,000

Gerlach during Burning Man.png

Whether by planes, trains, automobiles or some combination involving the three, the road to Burning Man is still a long one.

Once burners arrive at the Black Rock City, they must have enough supplies to last anywhere from several days to an entire week.

Therefore, the last town that tens of thousands of festival-goers travel through before landing at the world-famous event, prepares adequately.

Throughout the weekend leading up to the start of Burning Man, thousands of people drive through Gerlach, Nevada.

Each year, around 70 countries are represented at the festival, and travel through the town with a population sitting around 200 annually.

As each burner leaves Gerlach for the Black Rock City, they pass by Joseph Walsh's 'Great Basin Taxidermy' stand on the west-side of town.

"You meet people from all over the world here and it is really quite impressive to talk to those folks," says Walsh. "The very first year when they came out, I wasn't even aware they were coming and I was struck by some of the costumes people were wearing."

Burning Man coincides with hunting season.

Walsh has been setting up his temporary shop in Gerlach for 31 years. He says the event has become so massive that he has to leave earlier than he would like to, avoiding post-festival traffic exiting the town.

"We have entire animals hanging in the air and people that are going to the burn that really aren't from countries that do a lot of hunting are really intrigued," says Walsh.

There are two Washoe County Deputies who live in and patrol Gerlach throughout the year.

Come Burning Man time, however, that number increases to 10 deputies and two supervisors for a two-week period.

Sergeant Dave Bailey with the Sheriff's Office Patrol Division is the Gerlach station supervisor and says their job mainly consists of traffic enforcement.

"You have 70,000-plus people coming in and out of the event," says Bailey. "Instead of being a hunting mecca, they transform into a whole different population coming through, in and out of the town."

Bailey says his deputies make sure traffic is flowing smoothly and safely, but also help with vehicle break-downs and various other issues that naturally arise when so many people come through one location.

"A significant problem in Gerlach and Empire is you have two gas pumps for the entire town," says Bailey. "This normally is fine, but when you have 70,000 people come through that need gas, it creates issues with lines and just traffic issues in general."

As quickly as they come, however, burners leave the desert and drive through Gerlach, leaving the town with a sense of normalcy that exists for the coming 11 months or so.

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