Photo By Dennis Myers Once one of Nevada’s leading Republicans, Cliff Young spent the Labor Day Weekend at Black Rock City. Young’s pictured here in less festive circumstances.

Young burner
A powerful argument against the stereotype of attendees at Nevada’s Burning Man festival this year was 81-year-old Cliff Young of Reno.

One of the towering figures of Nevada history, Young served two terms as a Republican congressmember (the state then had only one), then 14 years in the Nevada Senate. He closed out his career with three six-year terms on the state Supreme Court (“You recall that period of judicial enlightenment, don’t you?” he jokes).

A longtime outdoorsman (he was once national president of the National Wildlife Federation) who has spent much time in rural Nevada, this was Young’s second year at Burning Man, and he stayed the entire week. He didn’t sleep in a camper or a tent.

“Sleeping outside in the Black Rock desert is not the best thing to do—the cold comes down, the heat rises, and there’s dust kicked in between them.”

Young says he chatted with businesspeople in places between Reno and the festival site, like Empire, and they told him Burning Man has become the way they break even for the year. And the festival itself was worth the trip, he said with a quip:

“There was some pretty good art. Sure, there were about 35,000 nuts, excluding me.”

Dennis Myers was the news editor of the Reno News & Review. He was a journalist for more than four decades. In 1987-88 he was chief deputy secretary of state of Nevada. He was coauthor of Uniquely...