Larry Harvey, the founder and driving force behind the annual Burning Man counterculture art festival, died Saturday at a San Francisco hospital after suffering a stroke earlier this month. He was 70.
His death was announced on the Burning Man website.
"Burning Man culture has lost a great leader and an inspiring mind," event CEO Marian Goodell said in a statement. "He adeptly interpreted the manifestation of what became a movement. I have lost a dear friend who I've known, loved, and worked beside for nearly 22 years."
Harvey had a stroke on April 4.
Burning Man began in 1986 with just over a dozen people burning an effigy of a man during a summer solstice evening ritual on San Francisco's Baker Beach. In 1990, it moved to the remote Nevada desert and began to grow rapidly. By 1993, the festival attracted 1,000 people and began doubling in size each of the next couple of years. The three-day "zone trip" morphed into an eight-day spectacle that attracted roughly 70,000 people last year.
The playa, as attendees call the desert during the festival, is typically dotted with numerous sculptures and interactive art pieces, many lit up with fire or lights at night. At the center of this temporary but virtual metropolis is the Burning Man itself, a 40-foot-tall wooden structure outlined in neon and stuffed with fireworks that's set afire in the festival's climax.
The event quickly became popular with Silicon Valley technologists. Among the tens of thousands of attendees making the trek to Nevada's Black Rock desert are programmers, web designers and even a few millionaire executives.
In the past years, Burning Man attendees have included Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos and Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin. Even former Google CEO Eric Schmidt has attended the event.
The very first ever Google Doodle -- the colorful graphics the company regularly puts up in place of its logo as a way to mark holidays, big events and VIP birthdays -- was posted in 1998 as a placeholder while Page and Brin went to Burning Man.
The festival attracted so many attendees from the tech community in the late 1990s and early 2000s that it was often joked that Silicon Valley would shut down during Burning Man because so many tech employees would head to Black Rock to hang out.
"Both Burning Man and the internet make it possible to regather the tribe of mankind," he told The New York Times in 1997. He also saw a "deep parallel between desert and cyberspace."
This year's festival, scheduled for Aug. 26 to Sept. 3, will go on as scheduled.
"As he [Larry] would have wished it, let us always Burn the Man," the organization said in a statement.
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