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In order to get the Target lamp to work, the town would have had to ship the pieces back to the Minnesota-based company that originally made the display so they could repair it, create assembly instructions and send it back to Soap Lake, where it could be rebuilt. And all for the bargain-basement price of $600,000. The cost was prohibitive, and the Target lamp pieces now sit in a storage lot near the city’s sewage treatment plant.

As the Target materials sit untouched, in-town bickering over the lamp’s placement and funding continued to whittle away support for the project. “To me, it’s an idea whose time has come and gone,” Nycz says. From the barstools of the Businessmen’s Club (the town’s nonprofit, members-only bar) to the booths at the B&B Drive-In (where diners place food orders from 1960s-era tables and carside phones), people say they still want the lamp, but they want the real thing. And while time proudly stands still in this community, patience seems to be running out. “How long does an idea live?” asks local filmmaker Kathy Kiefer. “Ultimately, that is the question.”


Nine years into efforts to build the 65-foot-tall whimsical wonder, they’ve also seen the reasons no one has ever before constructed a six-story tower oflights, hot wax and oil.

Apparently, it lives long enough to be born anew. This past winter, local architect Andrew Kovach unveiled new plans to build the Soap Lake Lava Lamp from scratch. The $1 million proposal scraps all the previous plans and materials in favor of a state-of-the-art installation that creates limited light pollution and consists of interior, solar-powered laser projectors shooting lava-flow imagery onto a Tenara fabric outer shell. The design has drawn raves from the community, and officials at Lava Lite LLC have blessed the undertaking by allowing their trademarked “Lava Lamp” to be used in the project’s official name. “Personally, it’s so recognizable that I would think you’d want to use the name,” says Dale A. Zalusky, president and CEO of Lava Lite LLC. “It’s flattering.”

But the Soap Lake Lava Lamp is still seeking financial backing. “We see this as a starting point for a lot of other things in the area,” Kovach says. “It will draw more attention to the wonders we have around here that a lot of people don’t really understand.”

And in that respect, the Soap Lake lamp makes perfect sense. Not everything that occurs in nature can be easily explained. Sometimes soaking in water can relieve decades of pain. Somehow a coating of mud can clean up old wounds. But then there’s that other truth, the most inexplicable of them all: “The lava lamp will pave every street in town,” Mayor Hovde says. “Nothing else will do that.”