A Festival for the Rest of Y’all
“There’s a feeling you get, a warmth of being, when you are in the company of like-minded people, a sense of belonging; of community.”
It's Perhaps Disingenuous of me to write a blog post about the volunteer experience of the Winnipeg folk fest, being that I've never experienced folk fest without volunteering. My first trip to the Winnipeg folk fest was a mere five years ago, having been sold on the festival by my then girlfriend (now wife), who had been attending since she was eighteen, and had already volunteered the previous year. To be honest, the crux of the initial pitch was the free passes to Folk Fest and the campground, which would give me a risk free way to experience folk fest. Having been properly convinced, I went to the volunteer website and signed up for campground safety.
I came into that first year with the idea in my head that my volunteer shift were an obstacle, something to be endured and overcome; an abstraction removed from the Folk Fest experience. I went into my first shift on Wednesday afternoon in the dispatch trailer for campground safety with that exact attitude. I quickly discovered that there was much more to volunteering that that.
There's a feeling you get, a warmth of being, when you are in the company of like-minded people, a sense of belonging; of community. That first shift was a hectic one, as campers arrived to set up tents and RVs, the full weight of an undertaking like Folk Fest baring down on the collective will of the volunteers, coordinators, and staff; creaking and moaning like the hull of a great wooden ship. Through all the chaos of that first afternoon, items lost and found, volunteers who had missed their training, misplaced keys for locks that needed opening , a recently discovered hornets nest in the washroom, and much much more; there was always a smile from a fellow volunteer, or a kind word to say and throughout all, an air of happiness.
The next day brought me to the backstage area where meals were served for volunteers in its two sprawling dinner tents, prepared by the volunteers of La Cuisine. All around the grassy expanse, people were milling about under the July sun, enjoying a juice or coffee (or beer). Under the tents, people were eating at the long communal tables, laughing and conversing. Here was the beating heart of folk fest I never new existed, abuzz with people and community. From newborn babies to wizened elderly; family and friends old and new, always smiling.
From then on I was hooked. That feeling of community never left me. Each year volunteering was like coming home. I can't wait to do it again this year and for years to come.
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