Yesterday, straight after work, I ended up being a volunteer at a festival. Something I haven’t done in over a year now.
I have forgotten how thankless, tiring and draining event work is. No one really appreciates the effort that goes into making an event come to life. But that is the song of chaos and control you must dance to as the event organiser.
It was also a blast to be back.
All the usual hectic activity was happening. When an event is underway and the initial set up is complete, it is a breeze. All you need to do is ensure the program runs smoothly and every single person is aware of their duties. The event essentially runs itself. There is no need to be running around.
Instead you rest, relax a bit and soak in the atmosphere you’ve created over many painstaking months. You chat to patrons, volunteers and rub shoulders with the band.
My volunteer shift started with the shitty job. The part of the festival that is never fun and involves a lot of frustrated and tired people: bumping out.
I knew exactly why my tutor (the general manager for the Brewer’s Festival) put me on for the bump out. He was aware of my experience in the past in dealing with festivals and in particular, angry stall holders.
So he made me the gatekeeper. The first man to be yelled at and assaulted by sponsors, food vendors and tired festival workers.
I had honestly forgotten how you can get the biggest spectrum of reactions from people. You can always tell who did the worst at the event and the ones who were successful. You can also always tell those who just want to get the hell out of there, safety and people be damned and others who are understanding and know the realistic situation everyone is in.
Those who pull rank on me, I despise. “I talked to Trevor! (not my tutor’s real name) He SAID that I can come in and do this, in front of these people here. I don’t care what others are loading, they’re not loading a 1.6 ton cart onto a trailer with 6 people. Why can’t you just let me in?” whined the ice-cream man who clearly made something of a loss.
Then I’ll get other responses like “Hey mate, all good man. I get it. I don’t mind waiting. You got a pretty good job though hey?” the relaxed cider guy would say with a sarcastic smirk.
Finally, the last typical response would be “Ahhh shit. Not much you can do right? Alright mate. Keep me posted” the tired whiskey man would say with a deep sigh.
Customer service skills, are something I still need to work on. It’s not easy, stroking the egos of so many different types of people and making them all happy. But then I will confess that I have always struggled when I am a “volunteer”, unsure of how much authority I am allowed to stamp out. As the boss of my own festival, I know that I am a firmer character and stick less to the rules. I am more flexible, relaxed, preferring the “rule of the jungle” than trying to impose any sensibility into a chaotic time, like bumping out.
“First come, first served” is more my style, as it takes the blame out of the organisers and there is more competition between the stall holders to see who can get to their stall first. I can direct traffic better this way, than being more rigid and sticking to a time slot.
But that is not the rules of engagement I was handed with and so I had to be a dutiful soldier and follow orders. I still ended up being a bit flexible in who I let in, but it was within reason and I think the bump out process went as smoothly as it could have.
I struck multiple deals though. Promising to help this stall out, by carrying half their load up a small hill. Reassuring another lady that she would get through soon, after this guy sorted his stuff out.
I only ended up fulfilling half of them. But that is the nature of the chaos that always descend during bump out.
I must say, overall, it was fun to be working amongst hard-toiling volunteers. There is a camaraderie that is struck up so quickly and naturally, and despite being amongst complete strangers, it was fun to share a bit of banter and work.
I stuck to my usual default “silent & strong” mode, chiming in only with a quip or offer for help, the words of eternal wisdom: “better to be silent and be thought of as a fool, than to open your mouth and prove them correct” echoing strongly in my mind as I kept working.
I was also curious to find out that I was still the best equipped volunteer there, my faithful companion of many years, the Pelican flashlight proving to be an invaluable asset as night fell over the venue, as well as the Mechanix Cut gloves I always pack in my EDC (Every Day Carry) bag. I would be remiss to not mention my other faithful friend, the Leatherman Skeletool multitool that honestly …. I have lost count the number of times I have used it at events and aorund in life.
I guess my atypical mentality of being “over-prepared” for everything does pay dividends in the long run.
Another strange piece of reflection I had during the bump out, was seeing my trusty combat boots finally get dirty. I had worn these for so long, just as casual piece of footwear, only to now truly see them in their element, keeping my feet comfortable, moving and stable over gravel, wet grass, patches of mud and endless ice from endless beer … it made me grateful I am always seeking the best the military has to offer and buying them for my own use.
It made me happy to see my investments enabling me to work harder and longer without discomfort. I enjoy bringing tools, gear and kit to environments and really testing them and seeing how I can work more efficiently with them.
A point of pride for me, was the fact that my stamina and strength had increased since the last time I was at an event. I covered a surprising 12.5km yesterday, just from walking around at work and at the festival and I felt physically OK at the end of it all. The B30 Challenge and my fixation with tennis paying off.
Overall, the Brewer’s Feast was a good event to attend, even if I was only there briefly. I was astonished at how long people spent there and how everything had a very cosy atmosphere. Despite the amount of alcohol that was flowing, there were very little need for security to step in, and there truly was a family friendly vibe about the entire event. I couldn’t believe how many vendors attended and took the opportunity to showcase their unique alcoholic blends. I liked the layout, the staff, and the vibe.
It wasn’t hard to see why this event had been running for 5 years and still saw massive attendance, even in the twilight hours of a Sunday.
It was just … nice to be at an event again, running around, being busy, physically and mentally and using all my tools again.
The Brewer’s Feast was a reminder that this is truly the industry I want to work in and that while I nearly missed the start of the MotoGP & F1 because I had rush home, and that my dinner consisted of slightly stale McDonalds nuggets … I wouldn’t trade attending a good festival for all the hardships in the world.
The best thing too, was that the night was topped off with an awesome race in Imola by the F1 fraternity.