by Joel Schulz and Michelle O’Keefe
Every aspect of the Calgary Folk Music Music Festival is run by volunteers. We met with Emily McCormick, Volunteer Manager for the festival to discuss the seemingly formidable task of assembling a group of almost two-thousand volunteers and the key roles they play and the fact that the number of returning volunteers from previous festivals approaches 80 percent.
There are 11 key management areas that are headed by volunteers: Artist Liason, Beer Garden, Eco Initiatives, Hospitality, Island Administration, Media and Publicity, Merchandise, Safety and Security, Site Operations, Stages, and Volunteer Services. There are 30 area managers to run these operational divisions. Under these managers are 200 volunteer crew coordinators. There are 78 crews in total. Just over 1600 people volunteer under the supervision of these 230 individuals. If one takes a step back and thinks of the size of such an operation, there are more volunteers at the Calgary Folk Music Festival than there are employees in all of the stores in the largest shopping mall in Calgary. Emily McCormick is tasked of assuring the festival’s success through managing its volunteers. She started out as a young teenage volunteer herself over a decade ago and is now in her second year as member of the Calgary Folk Music Festival staff.
From setting up and striking the many stages, seeing to the hospitality of the artists, transportation, Folk Boot Camp, and on to site clean up is all volunteer run. Even the trades people such as electricians and carpenters are volunteers. There are more people willing to be volunteers than the volunteer roles available. There is a wait list of 100 ready and willing potential volunteers, which means that the full component of 1800 is always met.
Recruiting area managers is a year round operation, however, almost all are returning volunteers who have been area managers in the past and new managers who have been past volunteers. Training and orientation for this group starts in January, almost 7 months before the festival. The 200 crew coordinators are equally experienced and mostly returning volunteers from previous festivals. There training and orientation commences in February. Training sessions for coordinators starts in January and runs through until June. New volunteer orientation commences in April and previous volunteers are asked if they wish to return in March.
Issues are tracked and each manager must make a report for festival management at the end of each season.
When you attend this year’s Calgary Folk Music Festival, please appreciate that your enjoyment of the weekend is totally dependent on the enormous volunteer pool that ensures every aspect of the festival is run smoothly and successfully. Emily McCormick shoulders tremendous responsibility to make this work. The Reel Can honours Ms. McCormick and her team of dedicated volunteers.
The Calgary Folk Music Festival starts on July 21, 2016 and runs through until July 24, 2016.