At the 25th Anniversary Fete, a spring celebration of Colorscape’s past, present, and future held at the Colonia Theater event space, volunteers and sponsors were recognized for their essential contributions.

Executive Director Celeste Friend talked about the essential role volunteers play in the always growing Colorscape Chenango Arts Festival.  Because her remarks are as true today as the evening when the delivered them, we are happy to share them here:

Did you know…?

Did you know that the arts are an important driver of the American economy? A recently published study conducted by the NEA shows that the arts contribute over $750 billion to our economy annually, more than 4% of the GDP. But here at Colorscape and here in Norwich, and, I might add, here at the Colonia Theater, we know that, don’t we? We know that the arts are important, not just for our souls, but also for our pocketbooks.

But did you also know that Volunteerism is an important component of American life and adds value to the economy that is usually undercounted and underappreciated? Last year, 30% of American adults volunteered in one way or another in America. They volunteered almost 7 BILLION hours of their time, with an estimated value of $167 billion. But here at Colorscape, we knew that too. (See, we know all the important stuff.) No one knows better than we do the importance of Volunteers, the importance of people giving of their time and talents, their efforts and expertise.

When we think of Colorscape Volunteers, we naturally think of all the happy and helpful people Volunteering throughout the Parks during the Festival. But in fact, the Volunteering that Colorscape depends upon happens all year long. It begins right in the New Year, when we have our first Board Meeting. Board Members are of course Volunteers. They come to meetings throughout the year, and do all the usual labor of overseeing the Festival, making necessary fiduciary decisions, etc. They also take on particular Volunteer roles. Connie Dalrymple, in addition to serving as the Board Secretary, also runs the Literary Arts Tent. Leah Millet, in addition to serving as the Board Vice President, also runs the Mainstage Hospitality, and this year took on the task of organizing our new Non-Profit Alley across from the Arts Council. Emily Krug serves on the Board, and she also runs the Art Market, and on winter evenings fashions wonderful backdrops from our vintage t-shirts. (I could go on, of course, but in the interest of time…)

In addition to regular Board meetings, we also depend on the efforts of Volunteers months before the Festival. We mail out thousands of Membership brochures in March, and we could not do that without the dozen or so Volunteers who show up on an early Saturday morning. And when odd jobs come up, we sometimes solicit help from our Army of helpers – just last week I reached out to Jane Clement to see if she could help with flowers for tonight’s event, and voila!

And this has been true since the beginning. Colorscape begins and ends with the labor of our Volunteers, and it always has. So we fondly remember all the Volunteers who have contributed to our history and our success and who have since passed on. Mary Lou Stewart’s family contributed our very first t-shirt that had belonged to Mary Lou, who was a longtime supporter and Volunteer, as well as Mayor of Norwich. So, thank you to Mary Lou.

And then of course there are all the activities leading up to the Festival itself. We load in on Friday, which means bringing all our stuff (and I’ll leave it at that) out to the Parks and get ready for Saturday morning. We rely on Volunteers from Chobani who give us hours of their time to help us get set up for our favorite two days of the year. And then on Saturday and Sunday Volunteers deliver lunch to our artists, booth-sit for artists, staff our Information Booth and Art Market and Art Zones, carry out the trash, so on and so forth. After the Festival is over, on Sunday night, we have to do all that loading-in in reverse, carrying everything back to our storage space. On the two special days of Colorscape, the parks are alive with art and music and very happy people. And our Volunteers are the grease that keeps all those things in motion and squeak free. It’s a cliché to say that we could not do what we do without the tireless efforts of all of you who give us your time, your creativity, your vitality. So, thank you for all that you do!

By Peggy’s count (and no one knows how to count like Peggy knows how to count…), we have had one thousand, six hundred and forty-eight volunteers over the years. The following people have volunteered for at least 15 out of the previous 24 years:

Heather Anderson

Michelle Alvarado

Richard Bernstein

Robert Benton Jr.

Bill Berthel

Joyce and Steve Bliss

Leslie Bogdan

Jane and Phil Clement

Carol Corey

Melissa deCordova

James Finnegan

Barbara and Mark Golden

Pam and Rich Hernandez

Al and Marilyn Kochersperger

Vickie Looker

Ken Millett

Mary Lou Monahan

Pat O’Donnell

Pat Pirrone

Jane Prime

Jared Randall

Rick Runyon

Nancy Root

Kathy Rutz

Deborah Sylstra

Charlene Walling

Deb Whitman