LONGMONT, CO–Addressing a group of fellow Carver High School students assembled in the school's commons area, 17-year-old Todd Kelso announced Monday that he is "definitely" going to Burning Man next year.

Todd Kelso says there is "no chance" he will miss next year's Burning Man, a week-long gathering in the Nevada desert capped off by the burning of a giant human-figure sculpture (inset).

"There's no way I'm gonna miss Burning Man next year," Kelso said of the annual week-long gathering in Nevada's Black Rock Desert, held Aug. 31-Sept. 7 this year. "It's the coolest fuckin' thing ever, man–I heard from this guy that all these naked chicks dance around in silver body paint, and there's this 50-foot floating couch that has lasers coming out of it. It's like this whole alternative community."

Kelso, who was unable to attend this year's event due to transportation problems, first learned of Burning Man in September 1997, when MTV News anchor Kurt Loder delivered a live, on-location report from the festival. Ever since seeing the MTV segment, Kelso has been committed to attending the festival.

"All these really cool people drive out to the middle of the desert to smoke weed and set this big huge statue on fire," Kelso said. "But it's not about acting all crazy. It's about getting in touch with your primal roots. It's about creating this whole other way of living in this alternate community. Plus, supposedly, there's a fire-breathing car that looks like a shark."

Added Kelso: "It's gonna be so awesome."

Already preparing for next year's event, Kelso said he is setting aside $5 from each paycheck from his bagboy job at Pic-N-Sav for the $100 Burning Man admission fee. He is earmarking an additional $5 from each paycheck for much-needed repairs for his 1982 Chevy Chevette.

Kelso has also begun giving serious consideration to his choice of costume. "I was thinking about going in some kinda crazy outfit with Christmas lights," he said, "or maybe something with big metal spikes like in The Road Warrior."

Added Kelso: "I think I'm going to cover my whole car in aluminum foil."

Kelso, who said he expects next year's Burning Man to be "twice as insane" as this year's, has already invited his best friend, Carver High School junior Matt Fleischer, to come along. t

"I don't know too much about it, but I'm up for anything," said Fleischer, who has already agreed to pitch in half the gas money. "From what Todd says, it sounds seriously out of control."

According to Kelso, Fleischer is the only Carver High student he could ask to accompany him to Burning Man.

"Anyone else at this school would totally freak over a scene like that," Kelso said. "But me and Matt are mature enough to handle it. Plus, the girls at Burning Man are supposed to be way more sexually liberated than the ones at Carver. The chicks here suck."

"Burning Man is going to be mind-blowing. And I'll be 18 next summer, so I won't have to answer to anyone," said Kelso, heading to his fifth-period algebra class. "I missed out big-time this year, but there's no way I'm going to make the same mistake next year. No fucking way."