Lamplighters returned to a back to basics approach 2005. The focus remained on lighting the city with almost 800 kerosene lanterns every night, building structures, throwing recruitment parties, and running the village kitchen.
The 2005 Lamplighter Council was composed of three veteran council members and three new members. Formal statements defined several on-playa areas of responsibility, and new manager positions emerged to oversee these roles. The chapel, kitchen, lounge, and village managers helped to keep Lamplighters running well with minimal confusion. Additionally, new and old volunteers stepped up to take on tasks as they appeared.
Early planning and preparation paid off in 2005. Setup proceeded smoothly and with help from pre-event work done by dedicated volunteers at the Black Rock Station work ranch. The management structure helped to keep the council from getting bogged down in details so they could deal with the big-picture issues. Additionally, a great set of volunteers kept everything that needed to happen happening.
Lamplighter depends on regular volunteers who live in the village and help every day with lighting and other tasks along with nightly volunteers gathered from the general citizenry of Black Rock City for each evening’s lantern preparation and processional.
Both village volunteers and nightly volunteers made excellent contributions this year, despite a reduced number of villagers. Everyone in the village was committed to working, which allowed easy training for nightly volunteers and smooth lighting of the city streets.
The focused setup crew quickly erected the three major structures. The kitchen, based upon the standard DPW shade structure, went up in 3 days and and then served as the Lamplighter wood shop until completion of construction. The two large structures, the Lounge and Workspace Chapel, were completed before the event started without any delays.
Setup crew members were not committed to any large-scale art installations for 2005, so all their efforts were focused on building the village and workspace.
New lounge support posts and a deck were prefabricated at the work ranch before reaching the playa. Prefabrication greatly improved the quality of the finished deck and made it faster to install. The prefabricated parts along with deck stairs wait in storage on the work ranch for use the following year.
Age has overtaken the wood frame for the kitchen structure, and it needs to be replaced.
Due to an oversight, an important step in the construction of the Chapel was overlooked. This mistake caused structural issues that surfaced during Monday’s windstorm, requiring a rapid fix in the high winds. The team plans to develop a more formal set of instructions for building Lamplighter structures to prevent this kind of oversight in the future. Such documentation will also make the construction process smoother in general.
Another concern is the need for significant skills to construct Lamplighter Village. During construction, two out of seven crew members typically brought professional construction experience to the task. Lamplighters needs to find a way to either simplify village construction or have a more formal mechanism to make sure that skilled labor is available in the future.
For 2005, Lamplighters lit some new partial routes — the theme camp areas down the 4:30 and 7:30 radials. The new arrangement involved putting up 32 more lanterns each night than in previous years. Despite expanded Lamplighting routes, plenty of nightly volunteers appeared to help. Again for 2005, Lamplighters rewarded our nightly volunteers with charms designed by a member of the group.
In 2003 and 2004, Lamplighters and lanterns rode directly to various starting locations throughout Black Rock City each evening. A return to tradition for 2005 started all Lamplighters from the Chapel, and all participated in the ceremony around the cauldron before proceeding to light the city. Even though Luci, the Lamplighter work truck, did not participate in nightly lighting duties, it was still invaluable for morning lantern pickup. Additionally, Luci’s upper deck was scaled back this year, reducing stress on the front springs, and boosting safety and ease of handling.
Lamplighters has continued using the same worktable setup from the time when only about 400 lanterns to light per night. To process almost double the number of lanterns, the workspace needs to expand. While the Chapel size is sufficient, table space should double, adding four more to the current four. Equipment for working on lanterns must increase, too, particularly washing bowls and brushes, and the kerosene filling bowls and turkey basters. More assistant managers are also needed to help organize the workspace. Each work table should probably have its own leader, and a designated volunteer should take charge of directing workspace clean-up after the procession starts.
One issue arose this year related to the timing of each evening’s task to light the city. The workflow must allow Lamplighters to leave for their rounds at 6:30.
Finally, for the past several years, large puppets have been a part of the Lamplighter processional down to the Man. The project had its most successful year for for 2005, as multiple new puppets based on the major arcana of the Tarot added color and pageantry to the main processional.
Lamplighters have enjoyed the benefit of a volunteer kitchen for several years. Villagers can have dinner all week in exchange for providing ingredients and preparation labor for one evening meal. The kitchen ran amazingly smoothly in 2005. Sign-up sheets for meal cleanup crews helped to keep the kitchen in shape for the next night’s meal. Additionally, a single manager overseeing the layout and use of the kitchen was a great improvement.
Fewer participants made their homes in Lamplighter village during 2005 than in the past. Feedback from first-year villagers suggested that they had difficulty feeling welcome in the village and lounge. A more welcoming framework is planned for 2006, perhaps with morning “introduction/how does the village work” meetings.
Shower facilities were lacking in the village. Some villagers have always provided shower facilities for all, but turnover and other issues left the village without any showers in 2005. A more reliable method of getting showers on the playa is needed for the future.
The traditional events of the Lamplighter Monday night Sangria Soirée and Wednesday afternoon Bloody Mary Brunch recruitment parties continued to rock the playa this year. More organized than ever, these events help with recruiting nightly volunteers and interacting informally with the citizens of Black Rock City.
Villagers stepped up recruitment efforts in 2005 to make sure that all guests knew what Lamplighters was about and how they could become a part of the tradition by participating in the nightly processionals. Hosts still made sure that everyone had a great time in the Lamplighter Lounge.
An upgrade to the Burning Man Extranet allowed much more flexible interactions by volunteer groups. Lamplighters took advantage of this change by reorganizing information for improved accessibility by volunteers. Additionally, a new Lamplighter Tribe makes room for social discussions, leaving the discussion list for more official business.
Lamplighters enjoyed a very successful year in 2005. Going back to the group’s roots and refocusing on the main objectives created a happy and successful crew. All volunteers in 2005, virgin or veteran, could proudly say “I am a Lamplighter of Black Rock City.”
Lamplighter Council 2005