The Lamplighters have grown during the last three years in much the same way that Black Rock City has grown. The group maintains more than five hundred kerosene lanterns that light the major streets of BRC during the event. Almost a hundred volunteers are needed each evening to maintain and carry the lanterns, gathered from Lamplighter Village, to the greater Burning Man citizenry.

Lamplighters meet several times a year before the event for organizational meetings and work parties. Lamplighters make their own robes, which are sewn from donated bed sheets and painted gold, and add to the supply of lifter poles which allow us to reach the twelve foot spires that hold the lamps during the event.

Photo by Joshua Marker
Photo by Joshua Marker

In addition to the 400 gallons of kerosene consumed at the event, Lamplighters also go through a fair amount of wash water, rags, and BBQ-style lighters. Most supplies are still around from previous years, or were made at very little expense. There are enough lanterns for future events, currently almost 700, and in 2000 six cases of lanterns and hundreds of spare parts were purchased, bringing hundreds of damaged lanterns back into the mix, good as new.

The most recent development within Lamplighters is the growth of Lamplighter Village, located behind the workspace. The camp’s population has grown from two to ten to forty, to nearly two hundred in 2001. One goal of the village is to have enough people camping nearby in order to do the Lamplighter work each evening.

One hundred Lamplighters work each evening to light the streets at Burning Man. Black Rock City is divided into four sections and the process takes about an hour and a half. Each city section has a leader, but many Lamplighters are new each evening. Meanwhile, a crew of four to eight people are working in the kitchen, preparing the group meal that is shared after the work is done and before the evening begins.

In addition to daily work, additional groups are needed for the weeks before the event to build the larger structures in the village and organize the workspace. Lamplighters are always in need of volunteers to build our structures, and could never have too many. Post-event, there has never been enough people to take down those structures and store them for the year.

Creating public spaces that accommodate the scale of the village is a challenge. In 2001, a 500 sq ft kitchen was built, and a sink, water tank, fridge, and two-burner stove were acquired through donations. Next year, we hope to get a second fridge, reinforce the sink and gray water system, and build more seating.

The Lamplighter Lounge is the centerpiece of our camp. It provides a large-scale social space to relax and mix with fellow villagers, lamplighter volunteers, and folks off the street. The ‘white elephant,’ a PVC monstrosity that was our workspace from 1998, has been destroyed by four years of events, sun, and wind.

For 2002 the primary goal is to create a new lounge that will accommodate the scale of the village as it now exists. While all of the sofas have been donated or found and used year after year, the new lounge will need to involve a lot of lumber, and very likely, more shade cloth.

There is also good reason to acquire another storage container, as the current one is full, and has overflowed into another trailer.

Please volunteer to be a Lamplighter! We need all the help we can get.