Participation Row – Lockn’ Music Festival 8/24/2018 Infinity Downs Farm, Arrington VA – Photo © Roger Gupta 2018

Written by Rachel Bessman

With festival season quickly descending upon us, there is no better time to pay homage and thanks to the wonderful people who help run these experiences that our community is entirely based upon – the volunteers. Running a festival is not like planning any ordinary party – managing not just the bands and performers, but also the merch booths, the food vendors, the facilities, camping, etc., all of which could never be done alone. We are so grateful and have the utmost respect for those who volunteer their time to keep our gatherings going, both large and small.

Photo by August J Photography

There are a huge number of reasons why one should consider volunteering their time to work at a festival beyond getting in for free. It’s a great way to meet new people and be introduced to new things, to get your hands into something you normally wouldn’t have the opportunity to, and it is incredibly rewarding.

Since festivals are such a breeding ground for artistic inspiration of all kinds, just being a part of and around the energy is a great way to further your own artistic growth.

Visual artist Gavin Gonzo said to me, “I used to volunteer at festivals before I found my niche in painting. It was a great chance to get my hands wet in a lot of different aspects of event production before I knew what I wanted to do within the community.” Adding that he got to be a part of the magic that he enjoyed so much.

Photo by August J Photography

Festivals are a great place to meet new people, and there’s few better ways to forge a friendship than to have a common goal. “Every year, I watch countless people show up to their shifts as strangers and leave as friends.” said volunteer coordinator for Domefest Nikki King, “I’ll offer someone a ride back to their camp and they’ll have already made plans with the new friends they just met.”

Jamie Danko, who began volunteering at festivals in 2013 – including Domefest – says that volunteering is not only a great way to meet new people, but is also the backbone of any festival.  “With a solid group of volunteers you can create amazing things,” she said. “The more I became involved with smaller festivals the more I fell in love. You feel a sense of accomplishment when someone thanks you for being a part of what made their weekend, a weekend never to forget.”

Lockn’ Music Festival 8/24/2018 Infinity Downs Farm, Arrington VA – Photo © Roger Gupta 2018

This sentiment was echoed by Nikki, who said,  “It’s really hard to put into words the pride a volunteer should feel when they walk around a festival. I’ve personally never seen a festival that could go on without volunteers. They are vital. There are way too many jobs that need to be done. Festivals, despite common belief, typically don’t make a lot of money.  If someone had to be paid to do every job, there would be no festivals. Seeing all of those smiles and knowing that you had a hand in making it all happen, it really is priceless.”

There are some misconceptions about volunteering, like that you won’t be able to enjoy the whole festival. Though it’s true that you will have to spend time working your allotted hours, most festivals are flexible with letting you pick out some of the events you really want to see and then working your schedule around that. It’s very rare to miss out on a band you really had your heart set on. Hanging out with your friends won’t be a problem, as again – you’ll know your schedule. And sure, you’re going to need to be sober for your shift, but you’re not always going to be on the clock.

Lockn’ Music Festival 8/24/2018 Infinity Downs Farm, Arrington VA – Photo © Roger Gupta 2018

It’s also not true that you have to work crazy hours to get your deposit back, and oftentimes, you will have worked less dollar-for-dollar for your ticket than if you were working to pay for it at a typical job.

If you’re really unsure about committing your time during the actual festival, there’s also plenty of opportunities to volunteer before and/or after. Instead of having a schedule to follow, it’s more of an “all hands on deck scenario”, like emptying gear from a van or breaking down a set.

Photo by August J Photography

Now is a great time to consider volunteering this season, and luckily for those of us who are excited about the prospect of being hands on at festivals, Domefest and The Werk Out are always happily accepting applications.

“I started getting more into volunteering at festivals after volunteering at Domefest,” says Jamie. “It was there that I met many great people that would later lead me to the path I am on now with coordinating. There’s a small community built within the fest community. I know some people who travel all over to volunteer or work events. It’s like an underground network of sorts that connects the most unlikely people together.”

If you Love Small Festivals as much as we do here at the Jamwich, then consider giving some of your time to some of your favorite events, while making amazing memories and wonderful friendships.