During my third year at Central Michigan University, I had two service learning experiences that I would like to talk about. The first experience comes from when i was given the opportunity to volunteer for a music festival in Kansas City, Missouri.
Over Labor Day weekend this year, I was given the opportunity to volunteer for a food vendor at Dancefestopia, a music festival in Kansas City, Missouri. Since it’s my dream to work in the music festival industry I saw this as a chance to get some experience working in the field.
This adventure began when a good friend of mine asked if I would be interested in working at a festival with him and I did not want to pass up this offer. So a friend I had met earlier this year at a music festival, Trey, drove all the way to Mt. Pleasant from Philadelphia where to pick me and my friend Josh up before leaving to Kansas City. I really didn’t know what to expect going into this weekend, but after an eleven hour car ride, I would soon find out.
We arrived Thursday, one day before the festival was scheduled to begin. Upon arrival, the crew organized us and had us help unload the truck and set up the vendor tent. We worked for about six hours and were done setting up by around 10:00pm; the manager then told us we had the rest of the night to relax and prepare for work the next day. Before the night had ended, Trey asked which of us new guys were morning people, eagerly I told him I could pull it off and was then given the 8am-2pm shift. Initially, I immediately regretted taking this shift but I would soon learn that I had made the right decision.
The vendor tents were placed a ways away from the campsites of regular attendees and although we opened at 8am sharp, the manager would let me sleep in a little longer knowing there wouldn’t be much business. I woke up around 9am and got ready for the rest of the day, I was put on the grill right away which honestly freaked me out. I had never been a cook before so this was a new skill that I needed to learn fast, but with the help of the other workers, I was able to get the hang of it real quick. At peak hours, I was cooking around two pounds of bacon and almost four cartons of eggs, I quickly fell in love with the fast paced work and interacting with customers. The vendors I was volunteering for were very popular in festival culture so it remained busy throughout the day, luckily, I was relieved at 2pm by other staff members and had the rest of the night to myself.
The first night took an unexpected turn and opened my eyes to problems I very well may face while in the music festival industry. A thunderstorm made its way into the fest around 10pm, right as one of the headliners was about to play. The festival had to evacuate everyone to their tents and shut down the main event grounds. The storm carried on for about three hours and reeked havoc on the campgrounds. Dancefestopia quickly became Mudfestopia as you couldn’t walk anywhere in the festival without being ankle deep in brown muck. The next morning, it would’ve been hard to decide if it was a tornado that had gone through the festival or not. Almost no grass remained anywhere on festival grounds where there was heavy foot traffic, peoples tents had flooded, and decorations were torn down everywhere. This place was a mess. Fortunately, the two woman who ran the festival quickly had tons of hay and gravel shipped over and spread throughout the festival to help mask some of the destruction. Seeing these professionals react so efficiently to a problem that could’ve ended the festival gave me a lot of perspective. Something my professors in the RPL department make very clear is that professionals in our industry must always be ready for catastrophe, and I had finally experienced exactly what they meant.
The rest of the weekend went smoothly and I was able to learn a lot about how events go behind the scenes during set up and tear down. I believe this information is very important to me and my future career and I am eternally grateful to be given this opportunity.
The second service learning experience I had this year was driving to Flint and spending the day there painting large pieces of plywood that would be used to board up vacant houses around the city. I had no idea the impact this would have until I actually arrived that day.
I was approached by Crystal Pendergrast the week before this event and was asked to help volunteer. Crystal is a beloved friend of mine that I love to help so I didn’t hesitate to have her put me own the list of people going. Although I don’t believe I’m that artistic, I requested to be on the painting crew, which I expected to just be painting walls a solid color. When I arrived the morning of, I found out I would be painting murals. This new information had me flustered because I truly have no artistic background aside from doodling in my notes during class. Our leader, Benji, helped me calm down and assured me I was overthinking it. On the bus ride to Flint, I began sketching some ideas of what I might paint. I ended up painting a masterpiece (in my opinion) and recreated “Bold and Brash” from SpongeBob SquarePants.
Not only did I learn to be more confident in my abilities during this trip, but I also learned to appreciate what I have and to always give to others when they need a helping hand. Seeing the impact we had by just having fun and painting for a better cause was unforgettable and I decided I would sign up for any service trip back to Flint to help out. The residents of Flint need our help, desperately, and it’s our job to right the wrongs of corporate greed (yeah, I went there).