SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (KRON) – Burning Man is back! Thousands from the Bay Area are starting to make their way to Black Rock City for the experience that officially starts Sunday.

Gates opened today at noon, allowing work crews to get in and start setting up their camps. KRON 4 caught up with some burners excited for their week in the desert.

This will be the first Burning Man since COVID. The art, music, and sense of community will be back, as well as some new policies learned during the last two years.

“Waking Dreams” is the theme of this year’s Burning Man. Gates opened Friday for those with Workers Access Passes, like Gina Giacalone, to get in and set up camp.

Giacalone is going for her first Burning Man. Her backseat is packed to the ceiling as she and her husband get ready to leave their El Cerrito home to head to the Playa for their first Burning Man.

Giacalone tells us she is excited to celebrate, “with music, with outfits and being able to express yourself however and wherever you’d like to.” She had planned to set up camp in Black Rock City in the past, but the pandemic had other plans — also postponing her wedding for two years — but now she’s married.

“There’s bike wheels, lights, disco balls,” Giacalone said. “I’m excited to go in as a newbie and experience just the excitement from others that have gone.”

Others are experienced burners, like Gabe Turner from Marin County. This year will be his fifth time going to Burning Man.

Turner tells KRON4, “it’s like an experiment in living, living differently in that people just open up right away out there and there’s not this kind of layer out there that we have in what we call the ‘default world.’”

There will also be some new things that organizers came up with during their two years off, such as camps led by burners of color and events on topics of diversity and radical inclusion.

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“The world has changed a lot and I think Burning Man is the place to reflect on those changes,” Turner said. He wants to enjoy the festival while also living by the popular Burning Man values of gift giving, self-expression, and leaving no trace to preserve the environment.

Organizers said that after ongoing conversations with medical experts, there will not be any health or COVID entry requirements. This means that proof of vaccination or a negative test will not be needed to get into Burning Man.