Volunteer of the Month

Our volunteers are amazing, and we love sharing their stories! Know a volunteer who deserves recognition? Email Emily McCormick at Emily@CalgaryFolkFest.com 

July 2018 | Paula Fayerman

Paula Fayerman has helped make the First Aid Services crew what it is today. She’s been volunteering for around 25 years - so long that she doesn’t even remember when she started. She was recruited by her friend Kerry Clarke, who is now our beloved Artistic Director, and has since taken over the First Aid Services crew, growing and expanding what they do and what they offer. When Paula started, she was the only person on the crew, carrying a pager and a backpack full of supplies. Now, the crew is over 20 volunteers of health care professionals and she is still leading the charge.

For Paula, the Festival is all about the people. She admires her crew’s “dedication and caring work, plus the ability to handle emergencies or difficult situations,” and it’s a high priority for her to ensure that patrons and volunteers are healthy and safe. She attests that “bug spray and water for hydration are really important parts of the Festival.”

Paula fondly remembers simply trying to walk from the Main Gate to the First Aid tent one year, and being stopped every ten feet by friends and fellow volunteers. She’s also a big fan of the music, and recalls a moment of a musical elation. “My favourite performer, Iva Bittova, was at the Festival, I met her and she gave me her new album. I had a wonderful conversation with Robin Holcomb sitting by the river. Hitting the bouncing balloon around at the Kid Koala set was joyful. Laying on the hill looking at the clouds I was transported by Colin Stetson. I’ll always remember Gil Scott Heron singing about the sun as the rain stopped and the sun started shining. Everyone emerged from under the colourful tarps they were holding over their heads or took off their raincoats. The feeling was elation carried by Gil’s melodic voice.” Thanks Paula, for putting First Aid first!

June 2018 | The Greig Family

The Folk Fest is a family in and of itself, but it’s also a place where families can grow on a smaller scale. Robin Greig started as a volunteer in 2001 on the Raffle crew, selling the most tickets in his very first year! An electrician by trade, he was soon won over by the Electricians crew, helping get the Festival hooked up to power. Having done it for so long, Robin has seen, and even lobbied to see, the electrical capability of the Island increase, and became the Festival’s first proper Electrical Manager. He liked the Festival so much he recruited his wife, Laura, to join him after just one year. Laura started in the Island Admin area, and was a natural fit, helping keep the Festival’s paperwork and processes in order. They brought their daughter Kim into the fold as well, initially working adjacent to Laura in Admin Security. Laura introduced Kim to one of her co-volunteers, Mike, and the family soon grew a little bigger. Mike and Kim are now married, Mike is a Security Supervisor, and Kim now helps out with Robin and the Electricians. They also have a volunteer-in-training, Alexis, in tow, who they wheel around the Festival in a wagon. She’s only four now, but she’s already wearing her volunteer t-shirt, which has been fashioned into a dress by her family. Her mom has her in mind for Electricians, but dad is eyeing her for Safety & Security. Robin attests that “you come to the Festival not realizing it could be a life changing experience.” Folk Fest has helped grow the Greig family, and they have helped make our Festival what you see today.

May 2018 | Doug Arnot & Holly Gillespie

The Festival has sparked many great romances, but volunteering can also be something that already-steady couples can do together. Doug Arnot and Holly Gillespie started out as friends and slowly fell in love. Doug had been a volunteer on the Rovers crew for a year, and he recruited Holly to the cause. They enjoyed walking around the Festival, but decided to try something new, and switched to Stage Security, which Doug headed up for 10 years with Holly right there with him. They two enjoyed seeing artists transition into their on-stage persona, but most of all, they loved seeing them turn “off” and get to totally relax in the backstage area. Ready for a change, Doug moved to Artist Transportation, where he has enjoyed developing a report with the artists after driving them around the city. He even recalls driving the Good Lovelies 5 times in one year and the playful banter that resulted. Doug is retiring from his Festival duties this year for health reasons, but Holly is carrying on. Volunteer or not, for Holly and Doug, getting together at the Festival is like a family reunion, and they look forward to stocking their shelves with new albums at the 2018 Festival.

April 2018 | Charles Cousins

You may not know Charles by name, but if you subscribe to the volunteer newsletter or the volunteer Instagram and Facebook, you definitely know his work. Charles produces graphics and design pieces for all three Folk Festival society volunteer programs, many of which feature our beloved guitar-strumming cow. If you marched with us at the Pride Parade, our rainbow cow banner was his fanciful work. Charles started offering volunteer program specific design work to the Festival three years ago, and he has been graciously offering up his talents ever since. Charles loves the Festival vibes and the warm fuzzies he gets from being able to offer his help to the Festival. “The love and appreciation are phenomenal” he attests. Charles has fond memories of enjoying twilight on the grass, watching the geese, combing his impressive beard, and listening to the music. Make sure to keep an eye out for his lovingly crafted graphic work in the newsletter and volunteer Facebook and instagram! He is currently hard at work on the 2018 volunteer handbook.

March 2018 | Debra Charnuski

The reason the food in the Hospitality area is so fresh is because of hard workers like Deb. Deb is a Cold Food volunteer who “love[s] to nourish everyone with dressings and wholesome salads made from scratch.” Deb has been a volunteer for so long, she has forgotten exactly how many years, but she estimates it’s between 12 and 15. Before that, she was a loyal patron, but a desire to find out what went on “behind the tents” brought her into the CFMF volunteer family. The camaraderie and community is what keeps Deb coming back to the kitchen, and the music is gravy from there. She feels a strong sense of pride and accomplishment seeing so many satisfied volunteers and artists coming through Hospitality. Deb recalls fondly that Jim Cuddy once declared her crew’s potato salad as one of the “best f-ing potato salads he had ever eaten.” Deb also likes to remind folks that they prepare over 100 kgs of potatoes per year, that, and that she has a huge crush on “Robbie-the-Robo-Coupe,” which is the pet name for the industrial food processor they use at the festival. Hospitality crews are known for their songwriting prowess, and Deb has contributed to this lexicon and would like to share one of her creations, to be sung to the tune of Pharrell's “Happy.”


It might seem crazy what I am about to say
Folk Fest is almost here, you can take a break
I’m a foodie that loves to go to that special island place
With the festival, like I don’t care, baby, by the way
(Because I’m prepping)
Chop along if you feel like being in a tent with a white roof
(Because I’m prepping)
Chop along if you feel like pasta salad is the truth
(Because I’m prepping)
Chop along if you know what prepping is to you
(Because I’m prepping)
Chop along if you feel like that’s what you wanna do......

July 2017 | Mike Tan

Mike Tan is a photographer and festival volunteer whose enthusiasm and love of people shines through in every picture he takes. Whether it’s capturing the moodiness and aplomb of Father John Misty, an audience moment or the hymns of the festival’s potwashers, Mike effortlessly showcases the full festival experience. Mike’s love of community and the local arts scene is evident in all aspects of his life and the Calgary Folk Music Festival is lucky to have a dedicated city champion.

June 2017 | Dustin Stirling

It is a difficult task to work with artists, and we rely heavily on volunteers who can be trusted to be friendly, professional and knowledgeable about our site. Over the past 9 years, we have been fortunate to have Dustin by our side, supporting our artists, staff, and volunteers. Working on the Island Artist Liaison crew, Dustin has moved his way up to a Crew Coordinator position, and has proven to be an excellent leader. Dealing with artists can definitely be stressful at times, but we know we can count on Dustin to keep the artists and his crew cool. He originally got into volunteering with us because he was looking for volunteer opportunities that were interesting, fun, and involved music. Clearly we checked all the boxes! Why does he continue to stay with us? “I enjoy the people who volunteer and help make the show a success! Every year I look forward to reconnecting with our crew and catching up on how everyone is doing. Almost like a mini family reunion. Also of course the music is fantastic! Its great to listen to some artists that I have never heard of or seen before and then to binge listen to them following the festival.” 

May 2017 | Soey Abu Ulbeh

Volunteering with the Festival since 2013, Soey is a positive and outgoing member of our Safety & Security team. Like many people who join our Festival family, Soey wanted to be a part of what was happening around her community. Lucky for us, she chose our Festival! Whenever you run into her – roaming the Island or greeting at a fundraiser – Soey is always ready to help with an enthusiasm and energy that can’t help but put you in a good mood.  Soey continues to volunteer, because of the magic that is the Festival, as well as the appreciation that we show for our community: ‘I love meeting people, listening to local music and being a part of something amazing. My favourite memory is going to the after party (my first year) and experiencing the feeling of appreciation by not only the Festival organizers, but also by the artists who were there to play for us.’

April 2017 | Rick Harper

When we need a cool, calm and collected volunteer, we can always count on Rick. He has been a well-loved member of our Festival family for over 20 years, helping us in all three of our volunteer programs. Whether it’s as a drum tech in the summer (Folk Festival), a stage support in the winter (Block Heater), or working at our concerts throughout the year (Festival Hall), Rick is always willing to help us get the job done! Rick got into volunteering with us, because of his ‘love of music and a desire to be part of the production rather than just an observer’. His favourite part of volunteering? It all comes down to music: ‘I love interacting with the music lovers who participate in all of the shows, other volunteers and performers alike.’ At the end of the day, Rick wants everyone to sound great and have a good time: ‘My intent as a member of the stage crew is to make everything run smoothly, so the artist may perform to the best of their ability.’

March 2017 | Hong Truong

You don’t need to wait until you’ve volunteered for decades to make a difference in our Festival family. With only one year under her belt, Hong is a perfect example of a new volunteer knocking it out of the park. After listening to a friend’s high praise of our volunteer program, she decided to apply. At the end of her orientation, Hong bravely stepped up to become a Crew Coordinator. She eventually joined the small but mighty Lamp Lighter crew, and has left a lasting impression with her team. We are happy to have Hong back for a second year, and are pleased that the feeling is mutual: ‘I have been a long time fan and supporter of CFMF. I have a strong love for music and the outdoors. The Folk Festival is a great combination of both.’ When asked about her favourite part of volunteering, she said, ‘Being able to take part in such a momentous event, seeing it all unfold from beginning to end, understanding the time and commitment it takes to put everything together, and, of course, the wonderful people you meet and get to work with.’ Hong’s positive attitude and work ethic is so infectious that we wish we met her sooner!

February 2017 | Nicolai Semenoff

Volunteering since age 14, Nicolai has been a part of the Environment crew for almost every year. His outgoing personality and willingness to take on any task has proven himself to be a valuable member of the team. Last year, Nicolai moved up in the ranks and became a Crew Coordinator, and we are very happy to see him in this role. Like many of our volunteers, he started as a patron, attending the Festival with his family. Once he joined our team, he quickly learned about the magic of volunteering at the Festival: ‘I continue to volunteer almost entirely due to the mentality and spirit of the Festival. Something about visiting the Island a day before it’s bustling with artists and Festival goers, and then being there when everything is winding down, just taking in the spirit of it all, is really what it’s about for me. It is a unique way of experiencing the Festival environment that isn’t necessarily offered as a non-volunteer. It is a sense of giving back to or feeling like a part of the whole function, if you will. Additionally, the acts are always great, so there is nothing to worry about on that front.’

January 2017 | Clare Stanfield

The Beer Garden crew has a reputation of being one of the teams to be on at the Festival. One of the reasons why is because of the fantastically wonderful people that lead the group. Clare Stanfield is one of these people. Clare has been with us for a long time…like a really long time. She was around before we had continuous delivery from the reefer. That means you had to change every…keg…by…hand. She was around when you had to fill out a paper application to volunteer. She was around when dinosaurs roamed Prince’s Island Park…well…not quite that long :P We have been very grateful to have Clare with us for around 20 years, and are immensely happy that she doesn’t intend to leave us anytime soon: “Every year, I go through a thought process where I ask myself if I want to do this again – I’m getting old and it’s tough on my body! And in all honesty, I just imagine NOT doing it, and that’s it. Mind made up, I come back. I love the Beer Garden, watching the team grow, yet somehow be able to maintain it’s family feel.” Aside from being a great (and hilarious) Crew Coordinator, she’s an excellent spokesperson for volunteering: “Frankly, it’s just fun. I love the music, but that’s become less and less of a motivation over the years. I’m just happy to have a rousing, boisterous, successful, silly, totally great four days in the Beer Garden with people I truly enjoy. It’s what life is all about, y’know?” Oh yeah, Clare, we know ;)

July 2016 | Jess Watson

If you have entered the Festival from the West Gate, our lovely Production Security crew has greeted you. One of the passionate Crew Coordinators on this team is the fantastic Jess Watson. While leading a large crew (80 volunteers strong!), can seem like a daunting task, Jess makes it seem easy, and puts in an effort to make sure everyone feels welcome. Volunteering in general is an important part of her life, as she enjoys using her time, skills and abilities to better the community. The CFMF holds a special place in her heart, because ‘it feels like family.’ She says ‘I’ve now convinced a lot of my friends to volunteer, and have been privileged to make some amazing new friends at the Festival.’ Great times and good people keep Jess coming back, even if she’s a little sore at the end ‘My body and specifically my feet are in pretty rough shape come Monday, but it’s worth it…every single year!!’ This will be her 6th year volunteering, and we are so happy to have her positive attitude, and bountiful cookie supply on our side.

June 2016 | Michael Alvarez-Toye

If you have been to the volunteer parties, you will recognize Michael’s face. He started on the Festival Parties crew in the late 90s, and just never left. Working hard on this busy late-night crew, he makes sure that everyone has a great time, or, as he likes to put it, he helps keep the spirit of the Festival alive! Even before Michael became a dedicated volunteer, the Festival was an important part of his life. ‘For me, Festival weekend is my weekend every year. It is the one weekend I look forward to, where I can immerse myself in music, ambiance, friendships, new discoveries…the list goes on!’ Being a volunteer is very important to Michael, he says, ‘For me, being a part of the family we call volunteers, is a special piece of who I am. It meshes perfectly with my persona, having in fact added to it. If I could sum it up, volunteering has gifted me a lifetime of memories and lifelong friendships. And that’s what makes one’s life worth living.’ Thank you, Michael, for keeping us rocking long after the Main Stage has ended!

May 2016 | Emily Sasges & Leah Gardner

Emily and Leah work hard to get our message out to the masses! They are the enthusiastic co-coordinators of the Promo Booths crew. This group goes out to various community events, festivals, etc. to shout our praises and try to sell some tickets. They help build the buzz and get people pumped for July. Even though one of them now lives in BC, they are always back to help with incredible passion and wonderfully creative ideas – talk about commitment! Emily and Leah continue to volunteer, because they believe in what we do as a whole: ‘the Festival provides a meaningful venue for performing musicians and we are grateful to be a part of the organization behind such a meaningful show! The Festival is such a special place – it seems to be the only time per year that brings together family and friends from all ‘walks of life.’’ We are thrilled to continue to have such strong leaders on our team – thank you, Emily & Leah!

April 2016 | Ayon Pradhan

Ayon is one of the many brave volunteers who work in the Music & Merch Tent. A CFMF volunteer since 2006, Ayon became a Crew Coordinator in 2010, and now we can’t seem to get rid of him! Known for his sharp sense of humour, Ayon is always there to help any volunteer in need. His outgoing personality fits perfectly with the bustle and excitement of the merch tent. When Festival season comes around, he looks forward to getting back together with his crew, meeting and chatting with incredible artists, and, of course, the after parties! Ayon started to volunteer with us as a way to give back to the community, and because of the many incredible tales of opportunity and camaraderie that surround our fair Festival, and the fact that the CFMF truly cares for our volunteers. Ayon says ‘Everything I was told is true. The CFMF really does take care of its volunteers; I have been with the core members of my crew for about 10 years now.’ Thanks, Ayon – here’s to 10 more years!

March 2016 | Debbie Noesgaard & Judy Todd

Cousins Debbie Noesgaard and Judy Todd are a prime example of the family love that we see at the CFMF every year. They are both long-time and passionate volunteers – Debbie started volunteering in the late 80s! In addition to Festival Hall and Block Heater volunteering, Debbie and Judy help coordinate the Food Servers crew – that’s right, they hold the delicious key to your meals. Their willingness to take on any task proves them to be strong leaders, and their warm and positive personalities don’t hurt either. Judy and Debbie love volunteering around Calgary, but consider us ‘the best volunteer gig in town.’ Judy says ‘ I continue to volunteer because it is so much fun – the music is always great, the staff and performers have always been friendly and easy to work with, the patrons are so laid back and interesting to talk with, and the other volunteers are great and interesting. Because of this, I have always felt appreciated.’ We are thrilled to have this double-trouble dream team on our side – the family that volunteers together stays together, right?

February 2016 | Desmond Murphy

Volunteering with us for almost 20 years, Desmond Murphy is nothing short of a miracle for the Festival. Acting as a co-coordinator on the Volunteer ID crew, his positively, organization, and know-how are imperative for setting all you volunteers up for success. He helps make and distribute the packages for over 1800 volunteers within a matter of days. While this crew carries a lot of pressure, you would never know it with Desmond. When talking about why he volunteers, Desmond says that he wants ‘to be part of something bigger, something that makes our city a great place, and something that brings some other kind of life, vibrancy and culture to this Stampede-centric cow-town. As well, I get to volunteer with my family members on an amazing crew with amazing people, many of whom are also “family” volunteers.’ You are one of the good ones, Desmond, and we are so happy to have you as part of our Folk Festival Family.  

January 2016 | Leigh Mclachlan

While Leigh has been a longtime patron of the CFMF, she is relatively new to the Folk Fest volunteer family. That being said, we can’t imagine our lives without her! Leigh volunteers with us as a CFMF, Festival Hall and (soon to be) Block Heater volunteer. Leigh cannot be torn from Festival Hall, patronizing whatever events she doesn't volunteer at, and even popping by the office – just to surprise the CFMF staff with tasty treats! As one of our amazing Office Support volunteers, Leigh helps the staff get organized prior to the summer Festival. She takes on any task with a smile on her face and a funny story in her back pocket. Volunteering is second nature to Leigh, who is also involved with Inn from the Cold, the Calgary Fringe Festival, and WideCut Weekend, just to name a few. When asked about her experience with the CFMF, Leigh says ‘I think Folk Fest and the staff and the volunteers add so much to our community and culture in Calgary. I appreciate all the people involved and their hard work. I could not imagine my life or Calgary without Folk Fest!’