With its annual Volunteer Orientation approaching on Aug. 13, the 12th American Folk Festival is facing a new kind of challenge: a lack of volunteers.
The AFF usually has a small army of about 800 volunteers who do it all: year-round planning, building stages, erecting fences, transporting performers and staff, collecting donations in the Bucket Brigade, manning information booths, selling soda and T-shirts, and even tearing down the festival after it’s over.
This year, the festival isn’t anywhere close to that 800 number. According to AFF Executive Director Heather McCarthy, the festival needs another 300 volunteers on its roster.
“The numbers aren’t as strong as they need to be in order to have all the services that we’d like to have,” said McCarthy.
Volunteers come and go — usually, about 35 percent of volunteers each year are new — but this year marks a surprising turn. The volunteer roster is down dramatically this year and, although the reduced volunteer staff has stepped up to take on more shifts during the festival, the AFF needs more people. Currently, the limited volunteers have agreed to work more shifts during the festival, which means many of those people won’t be able to take a break to enjoy the festival.
The AFF is a big operation that happens with just three paid staff — one of them part time. If it weren’t for the vast numbers of volunteers, there would be no American Folk Festival.
“Our volunteers are so crucial to the festival — from our board of directors and our committees who work year round to the folks that gather all together by the hundreds festival weekend,” McCarthy said.
Volunteer Orientation is an exciting event where volunteers receive their festival T-shirts, learn everything they need to know about volunteering at the festival, and generally get pumped up as they prepare to work together as a team to make the festival happen.
Volunteer Orientation is at 5:30 p.m. on August 13 at The Gracie Theatre at Husson University. If you can volunteer your time for a shift or two, call 207-992-2630 or visit AmericanFolkFestival.com to sign up for the orientation.