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The secret to festival-hopping

July 9, 2013

Winnipeg is known for its festivals. Our Fringe Fest is one of the largest in North America, and our Folk Fest is known worldwide for its quality.

When summer hits, you can hop downtown for Jazz Festival, Soca Reggae Festival, Manitoba Electronic Music Exhibition (MEME), or even the aptly named ManyFest (okay, this one is in September, but it’s a cool concept – a whole bunch of festivals combined).

I think the reason why I haven’t had too many commenters on here yet is because everyone is so busy living it up at a festival somewhere. Or, at least, that’s what I tell myself.

These festivals, while they often have free events, usually come with a price. A Folk Fest pass will set you back at least $300, and though every Fringe show is $10 or less, that price of admission can add up when you’re seeing dozens of them, like many people do.

I have a secret.

I know how you can get in for free.

No, it doesn’t require jumping over any fences or making counterfeit tickets. The organizations who run these festivals rely heavily on volunteers. You trade your time for admission and other perks.

Folk Fest Volunteer swag

A T-shirt is just the beginning!

For example, Folk Fest provides food for all 3,000 of their volunteers, and you get to go backstage and see how the show is run. Pretty cool stuff. I could be sitting beside Dallas Green while we both enjoy a delicious meal at La Cuisine.

I know that for some people, volunteering is not always possible with their regular schedule. But it never hurts to ask – volunteer coordinators will be pleased to know that there is interest in their cause. For students, it might just be a perfect arrangement.

It’s not just the big summer festivals that need volunteers. I volunteered at WNDX Festival of Moving Image last fall, and not only did I get a bag of free stuff in return, but I also developed some very valuable connections to people with similar interests to me (some of whom had paying work to offer me). It’s really easy to get to know someone when you’re working with them for a four-hour shift.

Tomorrow, I am heading to Birds Hill Park for my first shift at the Main Gate Box Office. It’s my first year volunteering there. I have heard glowing reviews of how Folk Fest treats their volunteers, and I am very excited to be joining the team.

AND, because I like to cause myself stress, I have gotten involved with a number of Fringe shows (as stage manager, contributor, etc). Tech times start this weekend, which means that I need to travel back and forth from the campgrounds. Luckily, there is a free shuttle for volunteers that stops just three blocks away from my residence, and the venue I’ll be at for Fringe is just around the corner.

So, if you don’t hear from me for a few days, you know why – it may be any combination of partying, working, and lack of reception.

Is there even Internet out there?

Regardless, I have some ideas for how to continue to entertain you while I am away. Stay tuned!