Folk Festival volunteer opportunities available

A bucket brigade – a human chain of first-responders, if you will – is generally a firefighting tactic used to put out a fire, in the absence of more sophisticated equipment.

Not so at the National Folk Festival, which will take place Sept. 6-8 in Salisbury. For those three days the Bucket Brigade will be trying to light the fire of enthusiasm, so to speak, in people who are attending the festival.

The National Folk Festival’s Bucket Brigade is one of many ways to get involved. These volunteers are tasked with collecting donations from festival attendees to help ensure funding for the following year’s event – which is, by the way, free for everyone to attend.

Preparations are under way, and everyone involved with planning says the same thing: Without volunteers the festival couldn’t happen.

Mark DeLancey is one of two volunteer coordinators for the overall festival.

DeLancey is performing an encore with his colleague Kendall Krach to make sure enough volunteers are recruited, scheduled and trained to ensure the event runs smoothly.

“We still have lots of openings for volunteers,” said DeLancey. “This is the second year for the National Folk Festival in Salisbury, and the second year for both of us as volunteer coordinators.”

And the biggest need, he said, is for Bucket Brigade.

“We probably need another 300 people for that task,” DeLancey said. Already around 200 volunteers are signed up for that task.

“We need a total of around 1,800 volunteers this year,” he added. “We have filled somewhere between half and two-thirds of those positions.

Caroline O’Hare, festival director for the second year, is excited about the Bucket Brigade.

“Bucket Brigade is super fun,” she said. “You get to dance around, hand out stickers, go backstage and enjoy the show. It’s one of the cooler things you can do as a volunteer.

Last year, about $35,000 was collected, said Shawna Kearsley, who is the team leader for the Bucket Brigade.

“We hope for great weather this year,” said Kearsley, “and higher numbers.”

Last year’s festival was hounded by rain that was at times torrential, although it didn’t seem to dampen the spirits of most attendees.

If  the Bucket Brigade doesn’t tickle your fancy, there’s also an Ice & Water Brigade that’s tasked with making sure festival participants are kept hydrated, and also that food and beverages throughout the festival are kept cool by delivering ice and water to the food courts, beverage sale booths and backstage hospitality personnel as well as performers.

The First Aid volunteer roster is full, according to a Facebook post by Krach. But there are still plenty of areas that could use a hand. Or two. Or hundreds.

Shifts are generally three hours in length. Some are behind the scenes and others are more visible. If you’re not comfortable dancing around front and center and seeking donations from festival goers, that’s OK, there are plenty of other ways to help.

For example, DeLancey also mentioned music logging as one of the three top volunteer needs.

“Basically it’s taking notes on the name of the artist, the name of each song and time of the performance and which stage it takes place on,” he said. “Anyone can be trained to do this. It’s a low-impact position, physically, although you do need to be 18 or older.”

The music logger also records each performance – which ensures this volunteer a prime position for the performances as well as an opportunity to interact briefly with performers. The recordings, along with the written logs, will become part of the permanent collection at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.

Other ways to volunteer include merchandising, assisting artisans in the Marketplace, Information Services, a Green Team charged with recycling and composting operations, the Maryland Folklife area for those intrigued with local music, crafts and traditions.

There’s backstage support, a Family Activities area, a Festival Desk where performers and staff are welcomed and provided information, office volunteers, soft drink and water sales, transportation, volunteer registration or if you prefer, you can help set up or take down the festival.

More volunteers are needed in all areas except first aid, which is now fully staffed.

Anyone age 12 or older is eligible to volunteer, and students can receive credit toward service hour requirements.

 “Personally,” DeLancey said, “I’m just paying it forward, keeping Salisbury growing and helping to create a better arts and entertainment area.”

“Volunteers made it happen last year,” said Salisbury Mayor Jake Day in an interview on PAC 14’s “One On One” recently. “This tradition is going to continue, it’s part of who we are now.”

To volunteer, visit, click on the festival logo and it will take you to the page with descriptions of the different volunteer positions and tasks.

“The musicians and performers are great,” said Day, “but this doesn’t happen without volunteers. We are grateful to the production team, our staff and everyone else, but the volunteers are just amazing.”

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