2009 was another challenging year for Lamplighters, but our crew met the test with new structures and procedures that were quite successful. As many of our veterans were struggling with the downward economy, 70% of our villagers were newbies. In 2008, our village population had doubled from the previous year, so this year we put a cap on growth. We aimed for 180, but eventually allowed for 210. We find it very hard to turn away people who want to camp with us. We feel it could rob them of such a great experience.

We implemented some new practices to make running a large village easier. Previously there had been a problem with villagers not fulfilling their volunteer duty, but still showing up for our community dinners. So we employed a meal POG system, and only those who worked got fed. It was a very successful motivator. We accepted that this was the new normal. We added a few more managment positions and made sure all the managers received days off, as burn-out was a problem in years past.


Steps 1 through 7, Thank you

Steps 1 through 7, Thank you

Lamplighters consists of a Project Manager, a five-person Council, one Set-Up Manager, one Teardown Manager, three Workspace Managers, two Volunteer Coordinators, one Village Manager, one Lounge/Bar Manager and one Relief Manager. There are some changes we feel need to be made for next year and we have been examining how other department villages are run.

Setup and Teardown

Our Setup Manager and crew this year were amazing. It was definitely the smoothest and easiest year for building our village. The crew had such great camaraderie. The ?capture the flag? game was on again between departments, which just boosted the esprit de corps of the crew. Everything was done ahead of schedule and done well. On the other hand, teardown was very disappointing. Most of the crew that the manager had assembled did not honor their commitment, and a three-person crew dismantled and put away our entire village. They also did line sweeps of our area, being meticulous that we were MOOP-free and for the 2nd year in a row, Lamplighters were ALL GREEN on the MOOP Map. Teardown is hard work and they did a great job!

Lamp Lighting

lamplighter truck at man base

lamplighter truck at man base

After the disappointment of last year, the Lamplighters were so happy to have Luci, the Lamplighter work truck, operable again. Oh how Lamplighters love Luci.

The city design was reflective of two years ago, and thus we had less lanterns to light than previous years. A good number of our lanterns are wearing out. In the spring, we will be having a work weekend to take apart lanterns and play doctor with them. An inventory will be done of what works, what doesn’t, and what can be fixed.

Splitting up managing Lamplighting into multiple positions was outrageously successful. The newbies now think Lamplighting is a breeze and responses from the vets we did have this year was that 2009 was the smoothest-run year to date. No problems arose. Everyone worked together well and did their part ? lighting ran like a well-oiled machine We had to turn away volunteers, which has never happened before. In the past we have had to use BMIR, the V-Spot and Playa Info to round up volunteers for us. This year we were self-sufficient and had an overabundance of volunteers.


The quality of quantity food we produce out in the desert astonishes other camps. The Kitchen Manager runs a tight ship and even when ingredients go missing or spoil, dinner is never impossible. We take the special needs of our villagers into account when planning and preparing the meals. Vegan, gluten-free, and various allergies – we have them all.

Recruitment Parties & The Lamplighter Lounge

Villagers served drinks and food at our annual Sangria Soiree and the Bloody Mary Brunch recruitment parties, while sharing Lamplighter stories and traditions as well as information about how to become a Lamplighter by participating in the nightly processions. These events bring in huge numbers of potential volunteers from Black Rock City. There is some concern that we need to draw clearer boundaries between work and play. The Lamplighter Lounge and Bar was shut down during lighting hours, no exceptions.

Lamplighters have enjoyed another year of success, without the stresses of previous years. What makes each year special are the bonds formed with each other, bonds that go beyond just friendship. Being a Lamplighter means more than lighting Black Rock City without fail every night. Lamplighters are a family. In 2009 we successfully focused on how to motivate villagers to play more active roles with Lamplighters, instead of focusing on finding outside volunteers upon which to rely.

Submitted by,
Tony Lewis