If you've had tickets to Black Rock City mailed to you in the past 20 years or so, you've probably wondered why a lone piece of spicy candy, an Atomic Fireball, was included in the package.
The Project's former Head of Ticketing, Nimbus, explains it all in a recent Burning Man Journal post:
As with many cultural institutions, this one started out for practical reasons. As the event was growing so were our operations, and some unexpected challenges were introduced. Among them, ticket deliveries were being mishandled by the postal service. To improve this, the ticketing team changed all deliveries outside of Will Call to USPS Signature Confirmation.
After consulting with our local Postmaster, we were advised two things to improve the odds of our packages being handled correctly: 1) manually highlight the label with a green highlighter to call out that it was signature confirmation and, 2) include something small, more than half an inch thick, to make the package uneven so that it would have to be hand-sorted and couldn't be machine-sorted.
Thus the Atomic Fireball candy was introduced. It was the perfect size to indicate a package contained more than just tickets. Being the candy equivalent of a fiery explosion, they were a natural choice for gifting with Black Rock City tickets. Many years later we were told we no longer needed to include it to ensure reliable handling. But by that point, the community was attached to finding the cinnamon jawbreakers in its packages. In fact, they are so attached that every year we see complaints online of people whose packages don't have the candy!
The story doesn't end there though. One time their ticket fulfillment partner ran out of Fireballs and substituted them for another candy which prompted internet conspiracies. The one conspiracy NOT covered in The True Story Behind the Famous Atomic Fireball Candy! is that the candy is laced with LSD. (To be clear, Burning Man is NOT dosing people with Fireballs.)
Image: Ferrara Candy / ferraracandyshopusa.com