• Although it was a successful year, the large village is not providing the number of volunteers needed, so a smaller village with more walk-ups are planned for 2012.
  • Two large recruitment parties have not been successful bringing in volunteers, so smaller, daily gatherings will be timed to support lighting the city.
  • After observing how other staff camps managed their space, we successfully delegated camp placement to a new team.
  • Work weekends were spent replacing and rebuilding our structures, which ensured our successful setup.
  • We will replace some lantern models with others that have better borne the test of time.
  • The new Ultranet tool improved meal planning, our kitchen crew are rockstars, and a new, simpler kitchen structure is planned for 2012.
  • We have, and always will, look for ways to change, stay flexible and adapt to the challenges of producing a village to light Black Rock City every night without fail.

Although 2011 was another smooth-running year for Lamplighters, there came a realization that some huge changes are needed in 2012. After a couple years of increasing the village size, now up to 220 volunteers, we have decided that this experiment hasn’t worked as well as we had hoped. Initially we believed that having a larger pool of volunteers immediately on-hand would ensure against relying so heavily on walk-up volunteers each night, but each night we still needed between 40-60 people to fill the 160 spots it takes to light the city. Regardless of initial good intentions, we end up with a large number of villagers who  do not  contribute the way we need them to. Having such a large village also impacts the work of the kitchen crew and the amount of time it takes to feed our volunteers. So, for 2012, we are going back down to a more manageable 120 person village and to re-emphasize citywide recruiting.


We are also re-thinking the two large recruitment parties that we host. The Bloody Mary Brunch and Sangria Soiree are some of the most popular parties on playa throughout the week, but they were started as a tool to bring in volunteers. The parties are an expensive endeavor, and we feel that we do not really gain many volunteers from hosting them. For 2012, we are going to plan lower-costdaily parties at more appropriate times of day, to refocus on the original goal of gaining new volunteers each night.

Lamplighter management consists of a Project Manager, a Set-Up Manager,  three Workspace Managers , a Volunteer Coordinator, a Kitchen Manager, a Lounge/Bar Manager and two Relief Managers. After examining how other staff camps were run last year, we initiated a camp placement team of three people. This new team took much of the burden of organizing where our volunteers set up their living space within our village away from the Project Manager and Volunteer Coordinator. Next year, with fewer volunteers in camp, we will go down to a two-person placement team.

Setup and Teardown

Our Setup Manager and crew this year were amazing as always, and everyone worked well together and worked hard, with great camaraderie. Many volunteers labored diligently on work weekends throughout the year, replacing the uprights that were giving us so much trouble the year before, and rebuilding our structures to ensure that assembly of our village for the event went smoothly.

Lamp Lighting


Despite scrambling to recruit 40–60 volunteers every night, lighting Black Rock City was an awesome achievement in 2011. We do have many complaints about the silver brand lanterns in our inventory. They are not staying lit, not holding up to the wind the way the blue Dietz lanterns do. We need to look into replacing them over the next few years. We are also losing both our Workspace Manager and Workspace Liaison Manager of the last few years, so replacements need to be found for 2012. The beautiful weather we had this year certainly encouraged huge numbers of walk-up volunteers coming to help light the city, and making our procession less of a struggle.

The Burning Man organization replaced the Extranet website that we had used to plan our village and meals with an improved site called the Ultranet. This was more user friendly and made planning our meals much easier. We have a core kitchen crew that feels the kitchen is the heart of our village. They prepare delicious and relatively healthy meals for our volunteers. Our kitchen is going to be replaced next year with a new structure that can be raised and struck in much less time.

The Gist

Each year is a learning experience running such a large working camp, and over the years many tweaks have been made to make it run more efficiently, while allowing for flexibility, for the inevitable changes in the years to come. The one thing that remains the same is that Lamplighters will light the city without fail each night.

Submitted by,
Tony Lewis