In the 2011 Afterburn Report, Lamplighters discussed some lingering problems recruiting enough volunteers, in spite of throwing large recruitment parties, and even with having a village housing 250 people. The project manager, along with other key members of the management team, addressed this and other issues when planning for 2012. There were hard decisions to be made, and each decision was faced with naysayers. In the past we had to troll Center Camp for an hour each night to get the number of volunteers we need to light the city. Throughout this summer, our volunteers publicized Lamplighters and our need for volunteers – along with a new party schedule – via social media. Our volunteers are very passionate, and we are very fortunate for that.
The first difficult decision we made was to cut the village back to 100 volunteers, plus managers and our setup crew. Aiming for a target population of just 125 people, we ended up with 140. We achieved the reduction from 250 by only inviting veteran volunteers who have had a strong history with us to join the village. A few exceptions were made, and we did also let about 20 first-year volunteers into our village. Some accompanied veterans, and were brought in on their recommendation.
There was strong opposition to discontinuing the two big parties that Lamplighters have sponsored for a decade. They were expensive and taxing to throw, and their traditional scheduled times – 10 pm Monday, and noon Wednesday – were not “prime” times for us to gain volunteers. Instead this year we held a daily punch party from 3 pm – 5 pm that proved to be extremely popular, and for the first time ever, we had the number of volunteers we needed each night in less than 5 minutes!
Lamplighter management consists of a Project Manager, a Set-Up Manager, three Workspace Managers , a Volunteer Coordinator, a Workspace Liaison, a Kitchen Manager, a Lounge/Bar Manager and two Relief Managers and a Placement Manager. Days before the event started we had two managers unable to attend and the two people who stepped up into those roles did amazing jobs on such short notice.
Setup and Tear down
Our Setup Manager and crew this year were wonderful as always, and everyone worked well together and worked hard, with great camaraderie. We had a new kitchen structure that was much faster and easier to construct. Although the weather was bad for the beginning of setup, having this new structure kept us from getting behind schedule.
2012 was the easiest year yet for the actual task of lamp lighting. We always had enough volunteers, and we had minimal lamp globe breakage this year. Prepping lanterns was really smooth this year, as we made the decision to have the collection team clean the dirty globes in the morning, so we could eliminate that station in the evening prep. This not only saved time from outside-the-village volunteers washing every single globe, not just the dirty ones, but it also allowed the routes to leave the workspace on time each night.
Our last-minute replacement Kitchen Manager was phenomenal and we are excited to work with her in this position in 2013. We tried to get away from the elaborate meals of the past and focus more on one-pot dishes. They were still tasty and meals were never delayed. Having the same crew in the kitchen each night also worked well. They were a team and knew the ins and outs of the kitchen, instead of showing a new crew how everything worked each night. This made the kitchen a well-oiled machine.
We learned this year not to be afraid to make big changes, even in the face of great opposition. As we made decisions in 2012, the Lamplighter management team really tried to accommodate as many as possible, while also balancing what is best for our camp of volunteers, and the essential duty of lighting the city. To vet our villagers, we considered their level of past contribution, as well as the ease of working and living with them, to trim over 100 people from the 2011 village population. People that were not invited back to our village were upset, and no amount of explaining why decisions were made could change this. The hard working, no drama camp we had this year appreciated the difference, and although it was painful that some feelings were hurt, our camp was stronger for the change.
From year to year, there is one thing we will not change:
Lamplighters will light the city each night, without fail.