GrassRoots Festival volunteer opportunities are plentiful

By Rob Montana
Tompkins Weekly

Photo by Jeff Foote Photography
Volunteers work on setting up a dance floor at the GrassRoots Festival of Music and Dance.

The organizers of the GrassRoots Festival of Music and Dance are looking for a few good volunteers – well, more than a few – around 1,500 to help out at this year’s event, which is scheduled for July 20-23.

Volunteers are what makes the festival go ‘round, which is how it’s been since the Trumansburg event got its start 27 years ago.
“We couldn’t do it without our volunteers,” said Nana Monaco, who serves as assistant director for GrassRoots. “GrassRoots is different than other large festivals and one of the reasons is we don’t have major corporate sponsorship like other festivals – we have all these amazing volunteers.
“From the first festival, when it started, the goal isn’t to make money,” she added. “The goal is to put on this wonderful event, have everyone have a good time, and it’s about community, music, support for like-minded causes and organizations, and to give back to the community.”

Those who volunteer at the festival not only help run the homegrown event, they get free admission for all four days. With a four-day ticket to the festival priced at $150 at the gate, lending a helping hand is a smaller price to pay. People can sign up to volunteer at the GrassRoots website, and are required to pay a $5 application fee – a new wrinkle this year.
“It shows there is a level of commitment,” Monaco said of the new fee.

Volunteers also have a $150 hold placed on a credit card, as incentive for people to be present for assigned volunteer tasks.
“The deposit is equal to a ticket at the gate,” Monaco said. “It’s only charged if the person doesn’t show up – it doesn’t happen very often.”

She suggested that people coming to the festival for the first time do so as volunteers: “It’s a great way to get to know people.”
Though the volunteer duties do require work in various capacities, a real effort is made to put people where they want to be – or are most comfortable.
“When people volunteer, there are questions on the form, such as ‘Do you like cooking?’ to try to gauge people’s interests,” said Monaco. “We want people to have a good time and enjoy what they’re doing.
“If people have a special skill, we want to apply that in the right way,” she added. “We don’t want to put a carpenter in the kitchen, for example.”

Monaco said there is always a need for people to work on the breakdown crew after the festival’s conclusion.
“It’s not as much fun as the set-up part and you might be tired (from the past four days of festival-going), but it’s a great way to volunteer that is not during the festival,” she said. “Some people just want to go to the festival when it’s taking place, so breakdown is a great way to not have to work during it.”

Monaco has first-hand knowledge of the volunteer experience – she volunteered at the first GrassRoots she attended.
“It’s pretty simple, it’s pretty fun, and that’s how I got involved,” she said. “This is my 10th year working at GrassRoots, and it started in my first year with volunteering. It turned into a part-time job and I haven’t stopped.”

To learn more about volunteering at the GrassRoots Festival, visit