CLEVELAND (WJW) – Tens of thousands of people trapped at the Burning Man festival in
Nevada are starting to leave Monday night.

Flooding stranded partygoers for days after the festival became a muddy mess. A man from Northeast Ohio was among them.

“This is my second burn, I went in 2022,” said Bryan Freeman of Berea.

It’s been one wild trip for Freeman who left Northeast Ohio two weeks ago.

“I flew out to Los Angeles during Hurricane Hilary. I landed in rainy Los Angeles, ended up picking up the RV, loading it up over the next couple days,” said Freeman.

Nine days ago, he set up camp at the festival inside the Black Rock Desert.

However, an unusual late-summer storm changed the entire experience.

“We did not look at the weather at all. Being in the middle of the desert, it was the last thing we expected. Friday afternoon around 3:30 p.m., it started coming down and it literally rained all Friday,” said Freeman.

Organizers were forced to close roads in and out of the festival. Around 70,000 people were stuck in deep mud with dwindling water and food supplies.

“They used to make shirts that said Cleveland, you have to be tough. Burning Man, you have to be tough. The porta potties alone,” said Freeman.

However, Monday afternoon the roads were deemed dry enough for a mass departure and the gates were reopened for people to leave.

“There is a steady flow of people going out. There are a lot of people sticking around to see the man burn tonight, and then the temple will burn at midnight,” said Freeman.

Despite the setbacks, Freeman said he will go to the festival next year.

“There were some times of doubt over the past three days. But I’m firm in my resolve that I’ll be back here next year,” said Freeman.

But first, Freeman has to get home to Northeast Ohio.

“My goal is to drive back to LA and then to find a flight to Cleveland and then be back in time for the Browns game on Sunday, so that will be a nice dose of reality and get my head out of the
desert,” said Freeman.