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The Last Windrow: Festivals depend on volunteers

This column is in tribute to all the folks out there who somehow manage to volunteer their services to help conduct a small town summer festival. There are battle scars aplenty among those who, with only best intentions, set out to appease the appetite of those who choose to attend and enjoy a true, small town festival.

I’ve been a part of our community’s festival since 1979. I came about this activity when my wife and I moved to our small community and had our visions and dreams of how good small town and community life could be. And, for the most part that has happened. With all that energy and goodwill instilled in our young carcasses, we chose to volunteer our time and whatever talent to helping create a bigger and better festival.

Our town is a rural, agricultural and tourism directed community. This mix of cultures proved a somewhat difficult choice as to what a festival in this town should look like. We decided to blend all the elements of the economy and call our festival “Summerfest.” A title basically designed to pay tribute to the short warm weather months so sought after in northern Minnesota.

Those who have volunteered their time and talent to helping the community celebrate with a festival can relate to the trials and tribulations of conducting a small community festival. We have heard every excuse in the world as to why or why not an event has happened. We have limped through a bevy of excuses of why someone we were counting on suddenly finds an excuse for not being able to organize the bingo booth. We have listened to those who complained that not all the vendors were in the correct place on the street. You have to have a tough hide to manage through a small town festival.

We don’t have war chests full of money to fund these events. We’re usually close to the blade when it comes to matching expenses versus breaking even. I admire those bigger communities with large corporate sponsors with bottom-less checkbooks that allow for most costs to be covered. Along with many others, I have never had that privilege. Whatever we produce, we earn by the straps of our boots.

But, we persevere and we all want everyone to enjoy themselves as they watch a parade, listen to bluegrass music, take in a magic show or chew on a turkey drumstick as they stroll around town. We love to watch the huge crowd at the softball tourney who hoot and holler at each home run and we are proud to have been a part of putting a smile on a child’s face as they enjoy the free pony rides.

This week is the week of my community’s summer festival, Summerfest. We’ll invite those from around the country to come and enjoy the early summer with us and hope they have a great time! But, always remember, behind the scenes there will be a troupe of people who have planned, sweat and worked to make these festivals a reality. Without them, nothing would happen. And then, I think we would be a poorer people.

Happy Summerfest or whatever event you fine folks have planned for the warm weather season! Hang in there, November is coming!

See you next time. Okay?