Volunteer organizations benefit from MerleFest

Story Submitted (mtfrontdesk@mountaintimes.com)

Article Published: May. 16, 2013 | Modified: May. 16, 2013
Volunteer organizations benefit from MerleFest

From left, Lynne Triplett, Darlene Silva, Charlie Silva and Jamie Lakey are four of many volunteers who contributed their time and effort to MerleFest 2013.

Photo by Frank Ruggiero

Wilkes Community College presented checks to its MerleFest volunteer organizations Tuesday, May 7, at the Doc and Merle Watson Theatre.

The volunteer groups shared information on their number of volunteers and the number of hours contributed during the four-day festival.

“We cannot thank our MerleFest volunteer groups enough,” said Lee K. Cornett, volunteer group coordinator for MerleFest. “They are involved in so many areas of MerleFest, including before, during and after the festival. Their efforts help to ensure a successful festival year after year, and we appreciate their time and energy so much.”

The volunteer organizations represented at this year’s festival were:

Boy Scout Troops 301, 325, 333, 335, 340, 343, 399, 658 — Shuttle bus and van transportation; information booth; pre-paid parking; Brown Lot and Green Lot parking; Pond Road traffic management
CareNet Counseling of Wilkes, Inc. — Overnight storage and lost and found
Champion Fire Department — Blue Lot parking
Communities in Schools — Little Pickers Family Area face painting and Little Pickers Family Area afternoon shift
Cub Scout Pack 399 — R&R Tent
Delta Kappa Gamma — Flattop Lot parking
East Wilkes Athletic Boosters Club — Volunteer Parking Lot D
Camp E-MA-ETU Reunion Group — Reserved seating daily cleaning
Explorers Club — Little Pickers Family Area bead art
Herbert Bell Shaw Lodge — Site cleanup and festival check-in parking
National Foundation for Ectodermal Dysplasia — Autograph tents
North Wilkesboro Masonic Lodge — Lucky Dollar Lot parking
North Wilkesboro Rotary Club — MerleFest Mall artist sales
Speedway Road Ruritan Club — Box office sales, wristband distribution and cooler check
Steel Magnolias — MerleFest Gift Shop
Viking Crew Inc. — Volunteer check-in
WCC Access Ability Awareness Club — Flattop (mascot)
WCC Basic Skills — Festival check-in
WCC Clubs — WCC beverage and food sales
WCC Continuing Education — Patron customer service
WCC Culinary Club — chamber night catering
WCC Early Childhood Development — Little Pickers Family Area management and morning shift
WCC Human Services Club — MerleFest souvenirs
WCC Nursing Club — Media Room
WCC Science and Technologies Club — Artist and staff transportation
WCC Student Government Association — Austin Stage and MerleFest contests
Wilkes Acoustic Folk Society — Pickin’ Place
Wilkes Chamber of Commerce — Access gates
Wilkes County Recreation Department — River’s Edge camping
Wilkes Vocational Services — Handicapped parking and transportation
Wilkesboro Volunteer Fire Department — Reserved seating setup and breakdown
Women’s Service League of Wilkes – MerleFest Gift Shop management and sales

Each of these groups has a mission and has its own MerleFest stories to tell.

For instance, Cathy Kolstad, with the Women’s Service League of Wilkes, has volunteered for MerleFest for more than 24 years. Her group manages the sales of the MerleFest merchandise. Her organization gives all their monies back to Wilkes County, awarding scholarships, helping the local Cub Scouts and Girl Scouts, and purchasing AEDs (automated external defibrillators) to place in the public schools.

“MerleFest is a true family affair for my family,” Kolstad said. “Both of my daughters, Erin and Molly, have attended since they were babies, and now Erin volunteers with our group.”

Her husband, Chuck, helps the Rotary Club with artist merchandise sales.

Another group that works diligently at MerleFest every year is Herbert Bell Shaw Lodge.

Nelson Martin heads up this volunteer group. The men of the group oversee site cleanup during the festival. The ladies group, Light of the Foothills Eastern Stars, oversee the festival check-in lot.

Nelson and his crew arrive early each morning and stay late each night during the festival. He drew laughs and applause from the audience when he said in earnest, “We use the funds we raise to purchase new rain gear for the next year’s festival.” Then he added, “All kidding aside, the monies we raise during the festival help local families with unforeseen family emergencies.”

“MerleFest began as a fundraiser for Wilkes Community College and as a remembrance for Eddy Merle Watson,” festival director Ted Hagaman said. “However, a key element of our mission is to serve as an economic catalyst in our region, and community involvement is a hallmark of our history. Our partnership with college and local community groups allows the economic impact to reach even deeper into our communities. And, just as MerleFest helps the college achieve its goals, it also helps our partners achieve their missions to serve others.”

Indeed, MerleFest has a lasting impact on the region. While 2013 figures are not yet available, in 2012, MerleFest had 4,400 volunteers contribute more than 46,700 hours to help make the festival a success. The volunteer groups earned approximately $454,426 through their participation.

“All of our volunteer groups are nonprofit entities that use their MerleFest compensation to benefit their association and the community,” Cornett said. “Under MerleFest contract and with guidelines for their specific responsibilities, groups are accountable for managing their areas, as well as providing and scheduling their own volunteers. The majority of our groups return year after year, and we have valuable working relationships with each one of them.”

MerleFest, founded in 1988 in memory of Eddy Merle Watson as a fundraiser for Wilkes Community College Endowment Corporation and a celebration of “traditional plus” music, was held April 25 to 28.
For more information, visit http://www.merlefest.org.

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