Sign up today to be a volunteer
You’ve probably seen them in action, those folks in the brightly-colored shirts asking you to make a “drop in the bucket,” serving you beer or cleaning up with the Green Team. Many more are behind the scenes, logging music, helping with site set-up or working backstage.
Roughly 1,300 volunteers are needed to make our 3-day festival free and accessible to all. It’s a huge undertaking that simply would not happen without their commitment.
Make no mistake, volunteering for the Richmond Folk Festival is hard work, but anyone who has contributed their sweat equity to the cause will tell you that volunteering is hands down the best way to enjoy it.
“People sign up to help out year after year because they really love it,” said Jamie Thomas, who heads up volunteer coordination for the Richmond Folk Festival. “Many come from several states away to be a part of this. It’s a big family reunion – our volunteers keep coming back every year.”
Volunteering is a labor of love, but not without its perks. Aside from a free t-shirt and the camaraderie among your fellow volunteers, volunteers also get preferred parking.
“The parking deck for volunteers is even better than the paid parking spaces,” Jamie said. “All volunteers get free parking for the entire day of their shift. If you want to spend the whole weekend at the festival, you can volunteer for one shift each day—a lot of people do that. They work one shift each day so they get free on-site parking for every day of the festival.”
Volunteers are also invited to mingle with festival artists and blow off steam at an exclusive after party that weekend. The party is not to be missed as artists are known to perform impromptu jam sessions through the wee hours of the night.
Mostly, though, people volunteer because they like feeling like they’re contributing to something bigger than themselves.
“I think people really love feeling like they’re part of this huge, nationally-known event,” he said. They are a part of what makes it happen. It’s theirs.”
Better with friends
Volunteering with friends is always fun and this year, we thought we’d make it interesting. For the first time, we’re rewarding volunteers who sign up in groups of 4 or more to pour beer or staff the Bucket Brigade with extra swag like official festival bandanas, shirts, hats, posters etc.
“It’s a new thing we’re doing this year,” Jamie said. “Volunteering at the Richmond Folk Festival is such a great team-building experience, we want to highlight it.”
Groups of all ages and skill sets are encouraged to sign up. So, go ahead, ask your co-workers, wrangle your kids, neighbors and old college-buddies and win some extra swag.
Something for everyone
If you've been thinking about signing up for the festival but don't know where to begin, we're here to help. An unscientific survey of RFF volunteers revealed the top 5 gigs. And, good news, many of these are still open.
#5 - Festival Desk
The Festival Desk is an offsite job at the hotel where the performers stay.
“You’re the ambassador for the Richmond Folk Festival,” Jamie said. “You welcome the performers to Richmond, help them with any arrangements they need for their merchandise or their musical instruments and coordinate their transportation. The performers have just gotten off an airplane, they may be jet-lagged, it’s their first time here, and you’re the person who greets them.”
Only 25 people are needed for the desk gig over the course of the entire festival weekend and the slots fill up quickly. It’s a great job for people who are good at customer service and who won’t be star-struck by the performers.
“It’s almost a concierge gig,” Jamie said. “It’s a very professional job.”
#4 - Family Area
Number four on the volunteer survey list is the Family Area, run by the Children’s Museum. Family Area volunteers sign up on the Richmond Folk Festival website, as for any other gig, but they have to answer some additional questions and agree to a background check.
“This is the perfect job for parents or grandparents or anyone who enjoys working with kids,” Jamie said. “It’s a self-contained area with performances and activities for children and families. This year’s theme is “Out of this World.” Celebrating the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, the area will include space-themed crafts and games, including rocket launches. Kids love helping out in the Family Area, too. “If your children are self-sustaining, absolutely bring them along to do the activities in the Family Area while you volunteer,” Jamie said. “If they’re older children who can help out, that’s great too.”
#3 - Beer/Wine Sales
“This is party central,” Jamie said. “You’re right in the middle of the mix. It’s fast-paced and very social; you’re part of the party.”
The beer and wine gig is one of the biggest jobs at the Richmond Folk Festival – anywhere from 300 to 350 people are needed to serve beer and wine to thirsty festival-goers. It’s a particularly good job for groups or teams from companies and organizations.
“All volunteers wear a Richmond Folk Festival t-shirt but corporate teams and organization groups can wear their company hats or a button with their logo,” Jamie said. “It’s a great way to get in your volunteer hours and it’s a great way to kick off your day at the Richmond Folk Festival. The first shift is over at 3 p.m. and then you’ve got the rest of the day to spend at the festival.”
Beer and wine volunteers must be 21 years old and they are absolutely not allowed to drink beer or wine while they’re working.
#2 - Backstage Volunteer
“This is one of the quieter jobs, for people who like working one-on-one,” Jamie said. “You know your stage manager, your sound guy, your Venture Richmond contact. You help the performers, coordinate with the stage managers and make sure everything is in place.”
Only one or two people work backstage at a time and there are seven stages, so 12 people get the slots for this popular gig. A lot of times, they’re people who have retired from the music industry or they aspire to work in the music industry.
“If you want to get a taste of what it’s like to be a roadie or to work with sound guys and see what performers are like backstage, this is your job,” Jamie said.
#1 - Bucket Brigade
It should come as no surprise that volunteers say the number one job at the Richmond Folk Festival is working on the Bucket Brigade.
“This is a fantastic job,” Jamie said. “It’s up close and personal, right in the middle of the festival. You get to watch the performances, interact with the audience and get everyone excited about the music.”
Bucket Brigade volunteers are stationed throughout the festival, passing the iconic orange buckets where festival-goers make the donations that keep the Richmond Folk Festival alive. They work the entrance and exit to the festival and the Marketplace, but they’re also in the audience at each stage.
“We give them noisemakers and they’re really the pep rally captains to get each performance started,” Jamie said. “They get the crowd worked up – it’s a really high-energy, fun job.”
It’s also the biggest job at the Folk Festival; 350-400 volunteers are needed during the weekend to encourage visitors to make “a drop in the bucket.”
Online registration for volunteers is open now at www.richmondfolkfestival.org/volunteer but you can also sign up in person at the Carytown Watermelon Festival on Sunday, Aug. 11.
Anyone who signs up during the Watermelon Festival will get some free swag and free hugs. And all volunteers, regardless of where they sign up, are entered for a drawing to win a Pacifica Beach Cruiser bicycle.
“We’ll be in front of Plan 9 Music from 11 a.m. until about 3 p.m.,” Jamie said. “It’s a great chance for us to introduce ourselves and tell them about the Richmond Folk Festival,” he said. “We get a lot of brand new residents who want to volunteer.”