The Last Windrow: Organizing a festival isn't always as easy as it sounds

Some can turn out to be white knuckle affairs when it seems that at any time the sky might fall.

Photo illustration /

Runaway horses, late arriving sloppy Joes, nonarriving bingo machine, craft vendor fighting with parade announcer.

What do these things have in common?

If you have ever tried to be or been the organizer of a festival, you would recognize the previous issues. I've lived through them all.

We have a big bluegrass music festival coming to Pine River this week - the Lakes Bluegrass Festival. National, regional and local pickers and strummers will descend on our community for a weekend of music and frivolity.

Thousands of bluegrass music lovers will tow their camper trailers to their campsites, each eager to listen to the bands. Some dig out their guitars and mandolins and play a tune or two with their camping neighbors.


I've been a part of the organization of many festivals over my years while working with the local chamber of commerce. Some of these celebrations turned out to be white knuckle affairs when it seemed that at any time the sky might fall.

Anyone who has been a part of such a committee that runs festivals knows what I'm talking about. Nothing is really over until it is over!

It was by happenstance that I ventured into the festival organization business. Shortly after I and my wife had purchased a business in our small town, I attended my first chamber of commerce meeting. The meeting was held in early June and the annual spring festival was on the agenda.

The group attending that meeting was asking for volunteers to organize the event. Somehow this group sensed fresh blood and the guy next to me told me to raise my hand. I did, knowing nothing about what I was signing up for.

I left that meeting as the head of the festival with $200 and two weeks to put something together. My dad had warned me from his Army experience to never volunteer for anything.

I should have listened to him.

As luck would have it, I did get a committee organized. Their only requirement of me for volunteering was to just not to ask them to lead the effort. So, we did have a horseshoe tournament, a sidewalk sale, art and craft displays, bingo, a sloppy Joe feed and, most notably, a parade!

It was the first such parade held in many years and it went off without a hitch.


Well, sort of.

There were only a few glitches and I've since recovered from them after 40 years. The sloppy Joe guy forgot what day he was supposed to serve; the bingo manager went out on tornado watch a half hour before bingo was to begin; after a bolt of lightning, two horses pulling an antique fire wagon ran out of the parade forming grounds and were found later munching on some lady's rose bushes; and one of the craft vendors got into a shouting match with the parade announcer who was playing some peppy music to add some life to the street.

The vendor ended up pulling up stakes never to return again. But, the parade went on without him. Small loss, I thought.

John Wetrosky
John Wetrosky (2022)

This week's bluegrass music festival has a host of committed volunteers and organizers to make it a success. The workload is spread out and there will be smiling faces on those who choose to attend and the organizers who are toting the load.

I'm just glad to know that there will be no bingo, no sloppy Joe feed, no arguments between a vendor and the PA announcer and no horses that will be seen departing the grounds at breakneck speed.

And the bluegrass tunes will be wonderful! I'm really looking forward to this festival! Yeehaw!

See you next time. Okay?

Opinion by John Wetrosky
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