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Larry Harvey, founder of Burning Man, smiles during the Burning Man 2011 "Rites of Passage" arts and music festival in the Black Rock desert of Nevada, Sept. 3, 2011.

"We resolutely held out for a miracle", wrote Burning Man Project CEO Marian Goodell in the "Burning Man Journal".

Since the early 1990s, tens of thousands of free-spirited revelers have descended on the Black Rock Desert, about two hours north of Reno, Nev., each August.

After the celebration ended, a towering wooden effigy is burned to the ground.

"Both Burning Man and the internet make it possible to regather the tribe of mankind", he told The New York Times in 1997.

Harvey is credited with co-founding one of the most influential performance art events in history, the Burning Man festival: a weeklong impromptu city of 70,000 participants that arises annually on a dry alkali lakebed in northern Nevada - a spectacularly inhospitable environment. "Burners", as they're called, left comments on the organization's website thanking Harvey for inspiring them as artists and for creating a community. With this full page spread, Burning Man remembers its fearless leader. "And he said, 'Can you say that again?' And I did and we did it".

While Harvey would speak frequently about Burning Man in the years that followed, he would reveal little about himself and it was often hard to discern truth from fiction.

The AP once described Burning Man as "an esoteric mix of pagan fire ritual and sci-fi Dada circus where some paint their bodies, bang drums, dance naked and wear costumes that would draw stares in a Mardi Gras parade".

Over the years, Harvey faced criticism for turning Burning Man into a cash cow. That same year a man was killed when his motorcycle collided with a van carrying people to the festival.

In spite of his apparent success he never gave up his tiny one-bedroom rent-controlled apartment in the Alamo Square section of San Francisco, where he lived alone until the end of his life. Harvey was adamant about the value of experiencing this type of culture. "He was 100% authentic to his core", praised his long-time friend and Burning Man CEO, Marion Goodell, on the organization's website.