Volunteers’ sweat equity makes Black Swamp Arts Festival possible


BG Independent News

Thousands of people enjoy all that the Black Swamp Arts Festival has to offer — the food and beverages, the music, the art, the youth activities.

Hundreds more turn their love of the festival into action.

The Black Swamp Arts Festival, Sept. 7-9 in downtown Bowling Green, relies on the sweat equity of those 900 volunteers.

Just like neighbors getting together to raise a barn, these people help bring the festival to life. They help with setting up stages, serving beer, monitoring where the beer goes to keep the festival on the right side of the liquor regulations.

They help kids create their own art.

They deliver needed snacks to artists, and sell merchandise.

“The whole festival relies on volunteers,” said Wynn Perry, who chairs the volunteer committee.

The board that stages the festival is made up of volunteers. They meet throughout the year raising the $180,000 it costs to put on the festival.

They book musical acts and enlist visual artists from near and far. They design posters and make sure people know about the event. 

And come festival weekend, they may even pick up trash and plug in other holes as they occur.

Why join this effort? Perry said “because it does make them part of the community. It’s a real strong community, and we have a strong community because people take that action.”

That applies to the festival and Bowling Green as a whole.

And, she added, “it’s fun.”

Working as a beer garden monitor people get to greet their friends as well as meet new people.This year the monitors will have umbrella covered chairs to sit on.

At this point, about a week before the festival begins, just over 50 percent of the volunteer spots are full. Those interested can sign up on the festival’s website.

Areas of particular need are people to monitor the beer garden to make sure people don’t carry beer or wine out of the designated areas. Also people to check identifications for people wanting to buy alcoholic beverages and to sell the tickets needed to buy those beverages.

There’s an special need for those wanting to work the late shifts.

Also needed are people to work on the Dawn Patrol. That’s the crew that shows up before the break of dawn Saturday to transform Main Street and the Huntington parking lot into an outdoor art gallery.

About half the volunteers work in the Kiwanis Youth Arts Village. “We’re very proud we offer those experience to kids and for them to learn the value of the art process,” Perry said.

That takes a lot of willing hands, about 250 more than have signed up so far.

While most of the festival volunteers are locals, including many university students, some travel from greater distances.

Mira Gratrix, who lives in the Georgian Bay area of Ontario, has enjoyed attending the festival almost since its beginning when she was attending Bowling Green State University.

Then about 10 years ago, she decided she wanted to do more, so she started volunteering. Helping out in any way she could.

“I just love being a part of it,” Gratrix said. “It makes me feel closer to the festival. I want to help.”