I got accepted for a position in May, after submitting my volunteer application and talking to Brian, who was the Volunteer Coordinator. Brian said I wrote one of the most eloquent submissions. Figured I had one shot so I made it a good one. I was placed on the Traffic & Safety crew, which was my first choice.
As a volunteer, I could arrive early before the throng of attendees. While my part of the work didn’t start until Wednesday, my crew chief asked that everyone try and arrive by Tuesday afternoon for a team meeting. I decided to arrive on Monday pm so I could get a nice camping spot and get settled in.
About a week before I was set to leave, a friend of a friend asked for a ride to the festival. Her name was Candice and she was from Arizona. Candice was a friend of my friend Robin, and she was in New England as part of her summer vacation. She had flown out to visit family and friends and was looking to hitch a ride to the festival. She was a regular attendee and a volunteer and wanted to arrive on Monday afternoon. She was staying nearby and said all she had to lug out was a suit case and string bass. I agreed to give her a ride since I was going solo, would welcome the company on the ride, and had a truck with plenty of extra room. They only worry I had was how big the string bass was and would it fit in the truck bed.
|J. Dawg truck with string bass|
We arrived at the farm in Oak Hill, NY shortly before noon. I got Candice unloaded and she quickly found our friend Robin who had arrived on Sunday evening and was camped with the Site Crew. I found a nice spot in the Staff Camping area and spent the afternoon setting up.
|J. Dawg campsite|
After I got set up on Monday, I walked over to say hi to Robin and check on Candice. I met Robin a few years ago on the dance floor at the Rhythm & Roots festival. She’s a tall statuesque blond with chestnut brown eyes, who is a very naturally beautiful woman. She’s also a great dancer and a fine musician. Robin has been volunteering at this festival for about 5 years and works the breakfast shift in the Site Crew kitchen, which is called the Ghetto. Robin was a great help to me throughout the week. She helped me find my crew chief, introduced me to several people (she seemed to know everyone), and got me a wristband so I could eat in the Ghetto.
She took me in to meet her crew chief Pat, who was head of the Ghetto kitchen. She told Pat she wanted her to give me a wrist ban . I could hear Pat mumble under her breath something about running out of food, but Robin told her “I know, but I want him to have a wristband”. Pat was no contest for Robin and gave me the wristband.
Turns out the Fox Hole was lots of fun. Set high up on a hill with nice views West and North. Most of the festival staff and Site Crew where there along with about 300 campers.
It was Gumbo night with big pots of Louisiana gumbo and rice being cooked. The food was delicious. I had two bowls.
Around 9 pm, Robin was looking to leave since she had to be up early the next day. She didn’t want to disrupt the fun that everyone was having so she set up a ride back with some friends. She asked if I would stay with Candice. I said sure even though I was getting cold and would have liked to leave. Robin said “Speak up when you need to leave because she’ll put you in the ground!” meaning that Candice would play all night if I let her. Watching Candice, I could tell by the constant smile and harmony singing that she was having a blast. She was leading the group and encouraging them all. The music sounded all the same with some good leads, fills, and breaks by some of the musicians. At around 10 pm, I was trying to figure out how to plan an exit. The outside temps were in the mid 40’s. I was tired, cold, and ready to go to bed. I felt bad that it was my age kicking in, but I’ve already filled my lifetime quota of late nights. I couldn’t make eye contact with Candice, so I finally had to get up and tap her on the shoulder between songs and tell her I could do one more song and then had to leave. She was all set to go even though the group of players wanted to keep her playing. We got back at around 10:30 pm, but it was a fun night.
I ended up just relaxing Tuesday am. I checked out the festival grounds, took some pics and waited until I could check in on Tuesday pm. I helped Robin set up a canopy and screen house in her camping space.
|Grey Fox before the campers|
|J. Dawg with Bob|
Thursday came and the music would start at 2 pm. I had to work from 1 pm to 5 pm so I would miss much of the afternoon music. Bob had me run the main intersection within the festival. It was a 4 way intersection where all the traffic in the festival needed to cross. I gave myself the title of Traffic Master. I took charge as I needed to and was out in the intersection moving the cars along. Being the Traffic Master was fun. I again got to meet all the people coming into the festival and about 90% of them stopped and asked me for some type of help or directions.
|J. Dawg Traffic Master|
With the music going, I went up to the stage and was able to go backstage to the hospitality tent to eat. It was so cool to be back stage seeing the artists hanging around and the food in the Hospitality tent was great. I watched a few bands perform (Crooked Still, The Kruger Bros, and Peter Rowan). Candice had recommended the Kruger Bros and they were great. I joined Robin to watch Peter Rowan and then wandered down to the Dance tent to hear the Red Stick Ramblers. I caught a few dances but my feet were really tired from being on them all day so I left at around 11 pm and turned in early.
On Friday, my work schedule was from 5pm – 9pm so I could enjoy a lot of the afternoon music. By now my morning routine was as follows; get up by 7 am, listen to the news on the radio, cook breakfast, clean up, fill the water bags, read, meditate, or play the mandolin and then walk up to the Hospitality tent for an early lunch. I got to sit for the next 4 hrs and soak up some great music from the Farewell Drifters, The Boston Boys, Dry Branch Fire Squad, Sara Jarosz, and Claire Lynch. This was the best part of the festival for me; to just sit without having to be somewhere and just totally focus on listening and watching the performances.
As it got close to 5 pm, I grabbed some more food and headed back down to get ready for work. I was working with the night shift, which was headed by Brian P. Brian had me out on the main road (Rt 22) directing traffic. The road was a little busy with cars coming into the festival. My job was to keep it all flowing and to help direct cars to the right spot. I was all alone except for three police officers who sat in their cars chatting. By 5:30 pm it started to rain; light at first, but within 15 minutes it was pouring. Luckily I had brought my rain jacket and umbrella. I couldn’t use the umbrella because directing the cars took two hands. Within a few minutes it was thundering and lighting out and the rain was coming down like a monsoon. I was stuck out there and it continued raining hard for the next hour and a half. Day attendees started pouring out of the festival, yet we still had new arrivals coming in. One guy arrived from Maine on a BMW touring motorcycle. I asked him if he was camping. He answered; “Yup, just rode down from Maine in the rain”. He was hard core. I waved Tim O’Brien in and later Casey Dreissen. Casey stopped and I said “Hey Casey, I like your music!”. He said, “Thanks, stay dry man”. My rain jacket kept my torso dry. I had on water proof hiking boots and a broad rimmed cowboy hat, but I was soaked everywhere else. The rain let up a little, but it continued raining for my entire shift. Cars parked over in the day parking lot / field were getting stuck. The guy running the lot came down to me and said “there’s cars getting stuck all over the place in the day lot, what do I do”? I told him to radio Brian as he was the crew leader. One mini van came out of the lot covered in mud, like it had been plastered with mud from a fire hose. There was mud all over the windshield and I flagged the driver down. I asked her what had happened, and she just looked at me dejectedly and said “you don’t wanna know”. By 9:15 pm I was looking for my replacement to arrive. The rain had let up a little and one of the cops came over to me to chat. He told me; “You obviously have directed traffic before, because you’re one of the few that seem to know what you’re doing”. I told him this was my first time and he looked pretty surprised. Brian came by in a golf car giving some ladies a ride to the day lot. I asked him, “You’re working on my replacement, right?” He replied “Oh yeah”. By 9:45 pm there was still no replacement. Brian came by again with replacements for the day lot. I asked him again “You haven’t forgotten about me have you?” He just nodded, but the cop who had been standing with me for last 30 mins, yelled at him saying “Hey buddy, this guys been out here 50 mins passed his shift. Get someone out here now!”. I told the cop “Thanks, you can say that; I can’t because he’s my boss”. At 9:55 my replacement came schlepping out. I handed over my baton, thanked the cop again, and walked back to my camper. It was still raining pretty hard and all the roads had become very slippery and thick with mud. Even the grassy areas were soggy and sloppy with water. I didn’t need a shower as the rain had pretty much cleaned me off. I stripped down and put on some dry clothes and decided to just hang out in the camper. I figured the dance tent would be packed and muddy with folks getting out of the rain and I could listen to the live main stage music, which was being broadcast on a local FM station. This worked out pretty good as I listened to Dave Bromberg and the Waybacks. It rained steady all night, but I stayed dry in the camper. The site crew guys camped behind me jammed for several hours under their big car port canopy. They were really good and I played a few numbers with them on my mando.
Saturday came and the sun was out, but the festival grounds where extremely muddy. All the roads were muddy with big tire ruts, the main stage area was a mud pit covered with hay, and the main walk way thru the food vendors was all mud. Big tractors were out pulling the potta-john trucks thru the mud. Good thing I had stayed in last night. As I was out walking, I was wearing sandals and my feet where all muddy, but I figured it would be easy to hose them off with a shower bag.
I had to work from 1 pm – 5pm and it was my last shift. Bob had me direct cars into the day lot and stationed two other guys in the field to park the cars. My job was pretty easy. The day lot was still muddy, but drying out fast. Bob came by to help the guys line the cars up so they wouldn’t get stuck. We had about 200 cars come in during my shift. One guy came in with a big 4x4 pickup and asked if he could park up front by the road, if he gave me $20. I showed him a spot in the lot about 40 ft from the road that he could use since he had 4 wheel drive. He still wanted to give me the $20, but I refused. I met Jennifer from NJ as she drove into the day lot. I met Jennifer last year. She’s is a real nice lady. She’s tall with auburn hair and looks just like Reba MacEntire. At 5:15 pm my replacement walked up. He a had cigarette in his mouth, had long braided hair, a braided beard, sun glasses, 3 day old dirty clothes, and bare mud caked feet. I told him what to do and told him I was going to catch Marty Stuart’s set after I cleaned up. He told me “just go catch the music dude; screw cleaning up”. Right.
I hustled over to the site crew shower and took a cold shower to clean off. It felt good. I got up to the main stage in time for dinner and to see the end of Crooked Still’s set. I just stayed put and had a great seat for Marty Stuart. Marty put on a great show and he is extremely gifted on the mandolin. For a closing number, he played a bluegrass version of Tom Petty’s “Running Down a Dream”. He sounded as good playing the leads on the mandolin as Mike Campbell does playing guitar on the original.
Sunday came and it was again a nice day. The grounds were drying out nicely from the Friday night rain. Each year, I had always packed up on Sun morning and headed home without seeing any of the music, but this year I decided to take Candice’s advice and stay and see the gospel music. It was really worth it. I got to see the Dry Branch Fire Squad do a gospel set and saw several other acts perform.
|Dry Branch Fire Squad|
After I packed it all up, I linked up Candice, who was all packed and ready to leave. She was lounging near Robin’s camper, very relaxed, and drinking white wine out of a water bottle.
After being at the festival for 6 days, leaving it was a little sad. I really felt I had become part of the community that put the festival together. I had met several new people, made some new friends, and enjoyed being in their company. All the veteran volunteers were very helpful and were very nice people. Just as it was all feeling comfortable, it was time to say goodbye to it all. I enjoyed being a volunteer. While the work was demanding, the benefits and people made it very worthwhile.