To The Point 8-30-12

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THERE IS SOMETHING REALLY sad about an empty park.

From my vantage point on the south side of Market Street, each year about mid August I get to look out my window and see the trucks and trailers and pieces of equipment move into the Paul Ogle Riverfront Park as the annual Swiss Wine Festival begins to take shape.

Having lived here since 1984, along with the fact that I also attended the festivals with my family when I was younger, the Swiss Wine Festival always comes with a great deal of anticipation and excitement.

When we finally get to festival week, all of the tents and amusement rides and fencing and ticket booths and all of those things we as attendees of the festival take for granted begin to move into place. There’s a small army assembled to make that happen, people that people who go to the festival never see.

Festival President Kirk Works told me this week that it takes hundreds of people - nearly all volunteers – to make our festival happen. When you consider we’re a county of around 10,000 people total, that is really an outstanding accomplishment.

But the view from my window gives me an appreciation for the work that goes on behind the scenes, getting everything ready for that first person to park their car and walk through the gates on Thursday evening.

And then it happens.

To me, it looks like it would be similar to trying to juggle torches that are on fire. There’s food vendors to take care of. Arts and crafts people, too. There’s a musical act with a big truck trying to get to the Main Stage; and something needs attention in the Beer Garden. Vintners are asking questions in the Wine Pavilion; the riverboat just broke down; a child has lost his parents.

Not to mention when Mother Nature steps in from time to time and drops a couple of inches of rain on the place.

As much as they love doing it, I imagine that the committee and other volunteers take a big, deep breath when the high school cheerleading competition winner is announced, wrapping up Sunday – and another festival.

But the breath can’t be too deep or too long.

Because Monday is coming.

All of those things I saw get pulled into the park over a week’s time? Well, on Sunday night and through the day on Monday, it’s all going back out of the park. It’s off to the next festival or fair, but there’s still a lot to do in Ogle Park.

That soda cup that you couldn’t find a trash can to throw it in? It’s lying on the ground where you left it, along with the 15,000 other cups that others sat down, too. The fencing that separated different areas of the festival? It’s coming down, too; along with the giant tents that covered the Beer Garden and Wine Pavilion.

It all has to come down and be put away and cleaned up.

There’s no rest for the weary for Kirk Works and his crew.

I go to the YMCA on Monday and Thursday mornings for a workout under the guidance of Larry Tolbert. This past Monday I rolled in at 6:30 a.m., and found Larry putting on his hat and backpack.

“Rod will put you through your workout this morning,” Larry said as he pointed to Rod Dickerson. “I’ve got to go down and help clean up the park.”

All through the day on Monday – and Tuesday – I looked out my window from behind my desk and saw a bunch of tired people putting in more long hours to take everything down that only days before they worked to put up.

All so you could have a great Swiss Wine Festival.

For those who know me, you know that I love to cook. I love to get in the kitchen and experiment with different things and different spices and ways of cooking.

It’s fun.

My wife will tell you that as much as I love to cook, when it comes to cleaning up the kitchen after I’m done – well, that’s another story.

If I’m working in the kitchen and suddenly need a couple of more bowls to mix something or divide something, it’s not a problem. I just reach up and grab a new one. I may use three or four different serving spoons in mixing up one dish; skillets and pans have no boundaries.

You know why I do that? Because I’m not the one who cleans it up.

My wife, hereafter referred to as “The Saint”, patiently waits until my mess is completed and the meal is finished, and then she goes about the task of cleaning up behind me. She puts things back where they belong and fills the dishwasher and washes other things by hand that don’t fit. She wipes off the counters and cleans the stove; and then she starts her “other work” for the evening.

The Saint put her foot down awhile back, and informed me that if I was going to make a mess in the kitchen, I should play a role in cleaning it up. I agreed.

You know what? When I have to help wash those pots and pans and clean off those counters, I am much, much more careful about what I use and when I use it.

You know why our kids use a fresh, clean towel after each shower, sometimes two or three at a time? Because they aren’t doing the laundry - The Saint is. When they went off to college and had to do their own laundry, suddenly it was ok to wear a pair of jeans more than once.

Amazing revelation.

It’s like the festival.

We all go down and simply take for granted that music will play and food will be available and rides will run and beer and wine will flow. We assume trash cans will never overflow; and porta-potties will always flush. Sometimes we forget to clear off that picnic table after we’re finished eating, and we assume that someone will come along behind us and pick that up for us.

And they do.

Folks, we have what I consider to be the premier community festival in this state. Every year it grows because those who attend demand more and more – and the committee works year around to meet those demands.

But you know what? That committee is filled with volunteers who would really like to sit down and enjoy “Hot Wax” on a Saturday night, too – except they can’t, because a vendor needs change or someone’s mad at the main gate. They work hard all year, and then work like crazy for four days.

All for us.

Here’s the reality of the situation – they need your help.

The festival continues to grow, but the number of people willing to volunteer continues to shrink. That leaves less people to do more work, and that’s not a good situation for the workers.

Records for attendance are set year after year, but that puts a tremendous strain on the committee. They need help.

They need your help.

You don’t have to give them all four days; but could you spare two or four hours one day so that someone else can take a break? Could you volunteer to be part of the clean up brigade for one evening of the week following the festival?

Can you take a ticket or emcee a grape stomp? Hand out some information? Deliver some change? There’s all sorts of jobs to be done, there’s always a need for people to do them.

After all, “Many hands make light work”.

How about yours?