- BC Games
Many hands put to work
They are the lifeblood of the festival.
Without volunteers, there would be no Roots and Blues, and each year hundreds make the commitment to 16-hours of work to ensure the city’s largest celebration and cultural economic driver runs as smoothly as possible.
There are 35 volunteer committees with duties that range from ticket sellers to stage crews, from security to first aid, from providing information and transportation and smiles to the thousands of guests.
Organizers of the festival say the contribution of the 900 plus helpers can not be overstated.
“Many return year after year and we are grateful to every one of them,” says volunteer co-ordinators Shannon Blakely and Dominique de Koster.
Annie Williams has been a volunteer for more years then she can even remember.
“I started in 1998, or maybe 1999,” she says from her post at the information booth. “I guess, that’s why I’m here now. I’ve learned a lot over the years.”
The most common requests at the booth are to direct people to the various activities, as well as help people with lost and found items.
They get a lot of cell phones, sunglasses and chairs turned in by forgetful patrons — this year’s weirdest item was an obviously well-loved baby doll.
Williams says they have a binder on hand to help them answer just about any question, but some still elude them.
“The strangest thing I’ve ever been asked was where is the nudie beach. I didn’t have the answer, but I reminded them it’s not here on site,” she says with a laugh.
What many might not realize is that similar to the festival’s fan base, volunteer opportunities also draw people from outside the community.
Anna Jakubowych came from Calgary to volunteer at the kids tent for the first time.
“I just love festivals, so this is a fun way to do it. Plus you meet a bunch of new people right away when you are helping out.”
As she painted tons of kitty-cats, butterflies and spiderman faces on eager children, praised the organizers for their volunteer perks.
“I might not be able to do this any other way, but I can give some time with the kids, which I love and then I get to take in all the rest of the festival for free. It’s the best deal around.”
Ruth Jantz was in the unique position of volunteering to help the volunteers, as she supervised the volunteer tent, where those offering their services got to get their meal tickets. She came up from Vernon to assist for her third year, after being lured by some of her friends in Canoe.
“It’s such a fun place, everyone’s happy, the music’s fantastic. It’s just the most awesome festival. To be a part of it makes it even better.”
While they rely on volunteer help, there have been some adjustments to make sure people follow through on their commitments. Volunteers used to receive a weekend pass, but now must get their next-day pass after putting in their shift. And there are some positions more coveted than others. An informal poll of the best jobs at the festival amounted to “anything that gets you backstage.”
Some of the worst jobs included working in the so-called wasp city, where thousands of recycled beverage containers were collected and attracted hordes of stinging insects and working in the volunteer parking lots, simply because you are far away from the action of the site itself.
But for the most part, Willams’s attitude echoed that of the majority of festival helpers.
“There’s no bad job if it gets me in here.”