At CampArctica, 2003 was a year of contrasts. On the one hand, our experienced team of managers and volunteers made this our best year ever operationally; however, we had some significant problems with our new structure and sorely felt the loss of a key year-round volunteer whom we were unable to replace.
By the end of 2002, the staff was in complete agreement that we needed a third truck bay to meet the increasing demands for ice as the population of our city continued to grow. This third bay allowed us to maintain one full truck and one “active” truck, and it gave our ice vendor the ability to pull out and replace the (now) empty third truck without disrupting ice operations. While the third truck bay successfully improved our efficiency in supplying ice to our city, the new structure designed to accommodate this arrangement did sacrifice the cathedral-like artistry of our previous igloo.
The most important obstacle, from our perspective, was that the structure was not completed until halfway through the event because of the inherent problem of building a new structure with a new manager and construction team as well as the DPW’s own struggles with the high demand for tools, machinery, and volunteers. This was our largest frustration since not only did it force our volunteers to have to suffer the scalding midday sun early in the week without proper shade but it also prevented any application of decor–the artistic finishing touches that would have made CampArctica more appealing as a theme camp. This problem also challenged our accounting team because we were unable to properly set up cash registers, which then only worked intermittently. In addition, the artist who had designed an interactive piece for our space was not able to install his work until late in the week.
Another problem was the loss of a key volunteer. CampArctica distinctly felt the lack of a valued decor and entertainment manager this year. Many people expressed interest in using our space for after-hour dance parties as well as large interactive art installations and such, but these plans required a dedicated project manager. It would have been wonderful to use the space 24 hours a day, but it was a challenge to design a layout that allowed the ice sales to be closed and secured during the nighttime conversion without a decor and entertainment manager. We are committed to making sure that our piece of prime real estate can be fully enjoyed by the community–and for 2004, we will recruit someone who would be interested in stepping into this role. If anyone reading this report is interested, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the day-to-day operations of selling ice, CampArctica ran more and more like a well-oiled machine. With a high percentage of returning managers, cashiers, and ice movers and shakers, the level of experience and community rose. Of course, we felt the normal pains of running a businesslike operation in the middle of the desert: registers lost the battle against the dust, printed information about our hours was inconsistent, and people ran in after closing begging for just 1 bag to save their beer or meat. In the face of these challenges, our volunteers shone more brightly than ever. Problems were solved quickly through consistent radio contact and solid problem-solving techniques. Next year, we plan to have a standard operating procedure manual on-site for all of the managers and volunteers to use as a reference.
CampArctica is beginning to feel like a tight community. A community that will define itself through positive energy, actions, and volunteerism–even in the face of adversity.
One of the most amazing displays of selfless volunteerism occurred Saturday morning when the radio call came in that one of our ice trucks had turned over en-route to Burning Man. Within an hour, a large group of volunteers organized and drove out to the site of the accident. There, they worked for hours in the blazing sun to transfer the ice from the damaged trailer for transport back to CampArctica in the vehicles of other volunteers. When the stream of cars and pickups arrived stacked with ice, numerous people waiting in line to buy ice joined the scheduled volunteers to help load the ice back into one of the refrigerated trucks. This outstanding effort saved nearly all of the ice, which would otherwise have been lost, and earned us surprising kudos from our vendor, the NHP, the Nevada Department of Health, and even the big-rig towing service. Even more amazing was that almost none of the volunteers accepted free bags of ice for their hard work. They were just happy to donate their time and give something back to the community.
As a further outgrowth of the development of the CampArctica community, there is increasing interest to continue to enlarge the social camping area within CampArctica. With such a large number of volunteers, a village-style layout similar to Café Village would allow more people to relax and bond away from the high pressures of ice sales. There is also talk of having year-round get-togethers so that our time together isn’t limited to a week in August. Of course, with our core team spread out up and down the West Coast and even into Canada, the main struggle is finding ways to implement these good ideas.
We should, of course, mention that ice sales operations once again allowed us to make a series of substantial donations to local Gerlach/Empire organizations. This year’s list includes: Black Rock Arts Foundation, Empire 4-H Club, Friends of the Black Rock, Gerlach, General Improvement District, Gerlach High School, Gerlach Medical Clinic, Gerlach Senior Citizens, Gerlach Volunteer Fire Department, Leave No Trace, Lion’s Club, Lovelock Chamber of Commerce, Nevada Museum of Art, Nevada Outdoor Schools, Pershing County School System, Sound of American Honor Chorus c/o Pershing County High School, Reno Crisis Call Center, The Crucible and Therm.
Xandra Green aka Ice Queen