'Burners' pack Castro Theatre to celebrate life of Burning Man founder Larry Harvey

ByAmanda Del Castillo via KGO logo
Sunday, July 15, 2018
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Larry Harvey, the man behind the global movement "Burning Man," was honored at San Francisco's Castro Theatre on Saturday night.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Larry Harvey, the man behind the global movement and annual event "Burning Man," was honored at San Francisco's Castro Theatre on Saturday night.

"Burners," as Burning Man devotees are known, packed the theater for a night of storytelling. Many shared their memories of Burning Man celebrations and their gratitude toward the late Larry Harvey.

Harvey suffered a stroke in late April and later died at a San Francisco hospital.

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Saturday's event, titled "The Man with the Hat," provided another outlet for those who were moved by Harvey's imagination.

Many explained how he inspired a culture only some understood.

In 1986, Harvey and his friend Jerry James burned a wooden effigy of a man on San Francisco's Baker Beach to mark the summer solstice. The crowd it attracted and the popularity that followed spread like wildfire.

"Then there's 500, then there's a thousand, then there's 2,000," Nancy Cadigan told ABC7 News. "Then the art -- don't even forget, the art was always there. But it grew."

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She was one of hundreds at the Castro Theater on Saturday.

Not only did the event grow, but it relocated to Black Rock City, Nev. The desert provided a destination and outlet for tens of thousands of people each year.

The event has grown to the point where tens of thousands of people pay up to $1,200 to attend.

For burner Brettt Roncelli, the lifestyle led to love.

RELATED: Burning Man organizers say no ticket price increase for 2018

"I met this young lady there in 2001. Married her six days later," he said as he pointed to his wife Renee. "We've been married now, it'll be 17 years when we go out."

This story and so many others were shared on Saturday night.

In true Burning Man fashion, burners added to an altar that will be ignited in late August at the next event.

"I think Larry Harvey is a case study for what it means to be a human being," even co-producer Rosalie Barnes said.

Many others on Saturday tipped their hats to the man with the hat.

"He would hated to have this much attention given to him and lauded on him, but we are doing it anyway because he's not here to complain about it," event co-producer, Will Chase said. "But also it's really important for us to recognize as a group and community what he did for us."