Reno-Tahoe Airport & the Burners

RNO's 15-foot Mini-Man is a replica of the giant sculpture burned each year during the Burnning Man festival.

The 70,000 “Burners” who attended last week’s Burning Man festival in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada have to go back to their regular lives now and about 22,000 of them re-entered the real world via Reno-Tahoe International Airport on Monday on Tuesday.

Some of the more than 22,000 Burners heading home from the 2015 Burning Man festival via Reno-Tahoe International Airport

That makes this week one of the busiest times for RNO airport and a week filled with unusual challenges.

“There are lines of travelers with large, dusty bags and unique items like hula hoops being carried onto airplanes,” said RNO spokeswoman Heidi Jared, who explained that airlines were wrapping each piece of luggage in plastic to keep the conveyor belt system clean from the fine playa dust that can bog down the belt.

Because Burning Man operates with a strict “leave no trace” policy, many Burners ended up bringing their garbage with them to the airport. “So RNO puts out extra trash bins on the front curb to collect a variety of items that Burners simply don’t want or don’t have room to take on the plane,” said Jared. 

Large boxes are set up at RNO airport to collect tons of trash and unwanted items Burners will leave behind_edited

Bicycles are the main method of transportation during the Burning Man festival and while many Burners put a lot of effort into decorating their bikes, they don’t plan to bring them home.

In the past, many bikes ended up left behind at the airport, but now the local Kiwanis club sets up a bike drop-off area at RNO to collect the cast-off cycles. The club then refurbishes the bikes and gives them to kids in the community.

The local Kiwanis club has a drop-off station to collected unwanted bikes used at the Burning Man festival. Bikes will be refurbished and given to local children

( My story about Reno Airport and the Burners first appeared on the Today in the Sky blog on USA TODAY in a slightly different version. All photos courtesy Reno-Tahoe International Airport)