Lamplighters returned in 2006 with a small percentage of veteran villagers and a substantial amount of first-year villagers. Our focus remained on lighting the city with over 800 kerosene lanterns every night. We also built our lounge, workspace chapel, and kitchen structures; threw two recruitment parties; and had a full staff running the village kitchen.
This year the Lamplighter council consisted of three returning and three new members. The 2006 council shared the several on-playa areas of responsibility, and the manager positions that were introduced last year, have become permanent. The chapel, kitchen, lounge, and village managers helped to keep Lamplighters running well with minimal confusion. We had outstanding new villagers that all really shined when it came to volunteering and really integrated nicely with our seasoned veterans.
Setup and Teardown
Early planning and preparation paid off in 2006. Setup was fairly smooth, except that a virus overtook most of the setup crew and caused us to fall behind schedule by a few days. Our villagers lent support to our setup crew to have our structures erect and ready for use Monday afternoon.
This year we tried to integrate two army tents as part of our shade structure and lounge. One tent was entirely successful, while the other had to be secured with new ropes due to wind conditions on the playa. Some wooden portions of our workspace structure are damaged beyond utility and will need to be replaced for 2007.
This year we added more lanterns to the theme camp areas down the 4:30 and 7:30 radials—partial routes that were established in 2005—for a total of 64 on these routes. Aside from some issues lighting 4:30 on Monday night, the city was completely lit every night of the event. In 2006 more Lamplighter Villagers participated in the nightly lamplighting than in previous years. This reduced our need to recruit on-playa during the event, and several nights we even had surplus volunteers. Again for 2006, Lamplighters rewarded our nightly volunteers with charms designed by one of our members.
In 2003 and 2004, each evening, Lamplighters with their lanterns rode their art vehicle Lucifer or, more fondly, “Luci”, directly to various starting locations throughout Black Rock City. Returning to tradition in 2005, all Lamplighters congregated at the Chapel and participated in the ceremony around the cauldron before proceeding to light the city. We followed the 2005 routes again for lamplighting in 2006. Even though Luci, our Lamplighter work truck, did not participate in nightly lighting duties, she was still invaluable for morning lantern pickup.
We planned to provide more table workspace in 2006, but the extra tables we built ended up being repurposed for tool and construction areas in the kitchen. This year for the first time, we designated assistant managers to lead the volunteers at each table. This improved our team communication overall and allowed us to depart for lamplighting at 6:30 PM almost every night.
For the past several years, large puppets have joined the Lamplighter processional down to the Man. The puppets were a labor of love for too few people, and thus were absent this year, but we did have drummers on some of the nights. We would like to recruit more drummers for next year.
Lamplighters have enjoyed the benefits of a volunteer kitchen for several years. In exchange for ingredients and helping prepare one evening meal, a Villager can have dinner all week. Sign-up sheets for meal cleanup crews help keep the kitchen in shape for the next night’s meal. We had minor organizational issues this year, mainly around scheduling or location of ingredients. We can resolve these issues easily with effective communication using white boards.
There were a couple of nights where people were waiting for dinner, but for the most part meals were timely. The portions were a little out of hand for some of the dinners this year, and leftovers took up too much space in the kitchen. We can resolve this with prior proper planning.
Our dinners were fantastic and there were few to no complaints around specific dietary needs. In 2007 we will try to improve the presentation of our meals by suggesting homestyle cooking with simple ingredients.
We had over 100 villagers in camp this year — a large increase from the past few years. Lamplighter Village has always had a strong family bond, and all our newbies this year fully embraced this. We made extra efforts this year to welcome our virgin villagers. We held morning meetings where we introduced new arrivals, made sure they knew who to go to with questions, and shared the plans for that day around the village. We anticipate a great return of villagers for 2007.
This year Lamplighters continued our tradition of sponsoring two on-playa recruitment parties: the Sangria Soiree and the Bloody Mary Brunch. These events bring huge numbers of potential volunteers from Black Rock City. Villagers served drinks and food while sharing Lamplighter stories and traditions as well as information about how to become a Lamplighter by participating in the nightly processions.
The extranet is an asset for Lamplighters. We use this tool to plan our meals and recruitment parties, all of which are funded with donations from our villagers. We attribute the success of our meals and parties to the planning that the extranet allows us year round.
Lamplighters enjoyed a successful year in 2006. Beyond lighting Black Rock City without fail each night, we expanded our objectives to include creating a happy and successful crew and alleviating burnout among volunteers and council members. Virgin or veteran, all of our 2006 volunteers can proudly say, “I am a Lamplighter of Black Rock City.”
Lamplighter Volunteer Coordinator
Lamplighter Council 2006