The Lamplighters experienced a watershed year in 2002. The scale of our responsibility for illuminating Black Rock City had grown greater than ever before, and we covered longer distances in fulfilling our duty. Our army of volunteers, numbering nearly 100 participants each day of the event; maintained, carried, and placed over 750 kerosene lanterns that lit more than 3 miles of our city’s avenues. Yet still we honored our tradition to light the streets of Black Rock City with absolute reliability, under any conditions, without fail. Large-scale puppets made a wonderful addition to the visual spectacle of our nightly parade.

In 2002, more Lamplighters than ever chose to make Lamplighter Village their home. These are people who have chosen to make the business of Lamplighters their primary business in Black Rock City. These die-hards make up about half of our daily volunteers. The other half of our daily volunteers are people from the city at large who have chosen Lamplighters as a great way to contribute to the official infrastructure of Burning Man.

In the village, our Lamplighter’s Lounge was our largest success. It was a 4,000 square foot structure made up of steel cable and shade cloth. It offered two divided, carpeted rooms, one with a misting system, with 25 or so sofas, a bar, and a second-story observation deck that overlooked the city. The lounge was host to our new tradition, the Monday night Sangria Sioree, an incredible party where we served about 80 gallons of sangria to over 1,000 guests.

David Best created a beautiful sculpture piece for our lounge, and the intersection in front of the lounge became a gathering place and central piazza for villagers. Our 750 square foot kitchen fed almost 200 people every evening, and it offered cooking and social facilities to villagers the rest of the day. The kitchen is supported not by the Burning Man organization, but by the Lamplighters themselves. Each villager is asked to arrive with one large-scale meal for one of the seven days of the event. With almost 200 villagers, we have always enjoyed spectacular feasts.

Lamplighters, and Lamplighter Village, are each works-in-progress, and we learn much from our struggles, just as we enjoy our successes. Our dry-erase sign-up board was intended to list daily lamplighting tasks, helping parade leaders to see who had signed up for their sections of the city. Many volunteers weren’t aware of the expectation to sign up, however, which caused some confusion. A solution is in the works involving better communication within the Lamplighter workspace, better signage, and more contact with Playa Info, perhaps involving Lamplighters volunteering there. A greeter/barker in front of the workspace to welcome and place new volunteers would be a great improvement.

We have talked for years about a Lamplighters community message board in the village, but we still haven’t done it. In addition to notes and contact information, it would help coordinate kitchen duties and schedules. We have never had enough daily help cleaning up the kitchen. Better communication with the Burning Man organization may smooth our operations. Since we run a large kitchen on the playa, we can do a better job with more operational support.

Breaking down the camp after the event was a challenge. Although tear-down started on Sunday this year, we needed many more people on Monday and Tuesday than were available. This deficiency has always been a problem, and we hope more people will make themselves available to tear down and pack away the Lamplighter world.

Our largest shortcoming was our workspace. So much effort was spent on our village that it was neglected. Lamplighters will enjoy a new workspace in 2003, which we hope to make a more vibrant and interesting part of Center Camp throughout the day and night, and not just during our 5 to 7 pm working hours.

In 1993, the lamplighters began as two people handling about 24 lamps. At the next event, 10 years later, we’ll manage almost 1,000 lamps and nearly that many volunteers. We’re providing more for our people than we have in the past, and Lamplighters are returning to volunteer again year after year. The scale of our job is immense, but many hands make for light work, if our call for volunteers is well-received and the core Lamplighters give their best effort

The Lamplighters have inherited one of the great traditions at Burning Man. It is a tradition we honor and develop as we rise to meet the challenge of each new year. We welcome everyone who wants to get involved in our work to help create Burning Man. We are working to improve the event, at an ever larger scale, and without limitations. The Lamplighters’ goal is to create and foster this unique life experience for participants who are willing to help make the Burning Man project come alive. All are welcome.

Submitted by,

Brien Burroughs