This past Thursday night after all the volunteers had left I entered back into Camelot Village to drop off some final material for Garlicfest. I was alone and took a moment to soak in the "quiet before the storm" of Garlicfest. The sun had all but set, the field was quiet, the volunteers and staff had put the final touches on the soon to be packed field and had gone home (hopefully resting for a long weekend).
We had started earlier that week on Monday with a core group of team captains and helpers beginning to chart out the field. This core group gathered every morning at 9am and worked to just about 5pm every night figuring out the complex mechanics of the festival and how to make it all come together. I calculated we put well over 1,000 hours of volunteerism in just the past week. That doesn't count the many more volunteers (over 100) that volunteered at the weekend festival, and what my staff and team captains have been putting together since January to make Garlicfest a success.
I'd like to personally thank many people. First, this simply would not be possible without the yearly focus of my staff, my board and organizers, particularly Lindy Lynch and Marie Shutts. A special thank you to our staff of Joe Frey, Carol Cameron, Kathy Gallett, and Barbara Bluto for stacking, filing, filling and keeping the other tasks of running a chamber moving along.
Our team captains are what make Garlicfest a top 10 event! Thank you to our Chair Lindy Lynch, Mike Baker (Field Layout), Mike Barriere and Patty Surdam (Gates), Sue Congdon and Mary Morrissey (Gates/Signs), Tom Dailey and Brenda Jones (Parking), Joe Frey (Retail), Michael Harrington (Announcing/Welcoming), Michele Hogan (Music), Joel Howard (Security/Sheriff), Shannon McLenithan (Sponsors), Sarah Perrin (Demonstrations), Joy Powell (Founder), Tracey Schwarz (Kid's Games), Milt Surdam (Garbage/Recycling/Compost), Pat Warner (Vendors), Forrest Weyen (Rescue Squad), Art Whitman (Landscape/Tractor), and Dan Strohl (Surveys).
Thank you to our sponsors: Bank of Bennington, Bennington Banner, Bennington House of Tile, Bennington Potters, Bennington Rescue Squad, Camelot Village, Carbone Auto Group, Doxsee Roofing, GVH Studio, Home Depot, Kevin's Sports Pub & Restaurant, KW VT - Brenda Jones Real Estate, Southern Vermont College, Mt. Anthony Preservation Society, Inc., Duo Corporation, Peter Geannelis DVM, Donnie Wassick and Main Care Energy.
A special thank you to the Bennington Rotary Club, Bennington Lions Club, Dollars for Scholars, Interact Club, Norshaft Lions Club, Ramuntos, TAM, and Uncle Bob's Septic.
With over 100 volunteers, I'd like to personally thank all of you who put in as much time as your busy schedule would allow. I am humbled by the amount of effort and energy you continually give to our Chamber. We thank you.
There's a quote we've used throughout the week and I think it's timely no matter the event or cause, "Volunteering is the ultimate exercise in democracy. You vote in elections once a year, but when you volunteer, you vote every day about the kind of community you want to live in."
There are moments in the middle of the storm of an event: little laughs (perhaps hysterical), eye rolls (we've been down this road before), and the quiet "thank yous" that may seem commonplace by the end of a long week of working together, but they still matter and are still said. Things like these (and many more) are what makes volunteering and working together on these types of events worth it.
While growing up in a family of 8 there was a saying my parents drilled into our heads, "many hands make light work." Perhaps not light, but lighter. Your "many hands" are the Chamber's oxygen.
On behalf of the chamber, thank you one and all for another wonderful Garlicfest!
— Matt Harrington is the executive director of the Bennington Area Chamber of Commerce