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So You Think You Want to Be a Festival Coordinator

Author: Bronwen Forbes [a WitchVox Sponsor]
Posted: August 9th. 2009
Times Viewed: 3,304

As mentioned in a previous article here on Witchvox, I said that the only job less glamorous and more arduous than being the High Priest or High Priestess of a training coven is overall coordinator for a Pagan festival. While a festival or gathering lasts, at most, a week and a training coven can exist for years if not decades, I still say (as a recovering festival coordinator) I’d rather run a training coven any day. Here’s why:

I can go to the bathroom more often than once every twelve hours. Training classes and sabbat rituals only take a few hours and then the attendees go home. A festival is a round-the-clock event. It never failed – as soon as I was just about to open the Port-A-John door, another crisis needing my immediate attention would be squawking across my walkie-talkie. Closely related to this is…

I can sleep. Eventually, the coveners and guests go home after ritual and everyone in my immediate area of responsibility (i.e. my house) can – and do – go to bed. As a Festival Coordinator, my immediate area of responsibility was much larger, and *someone* was always awake, even at 3:00 a.m. If there’s an emergency, or the awake someone or someones are making too much noise, guess who gets woken up to take care of it? Yes, the security staff can and often does take care of the rowdy attendees, but for some reason a grumpy Festival Coordinator is a very effective noise deterrent.

I can eat. Until the festival I used to run finally coordinated with the campground staff to provide a meal plan, I usually lost a few pounds during the course of the gathering because I simply did not have time to sit down and eat (see going to the bathroom issues, above) . My coveners and students, on the other hand, have a lovely habit of bringing more food to the post-ritual potluck than the group can possibly eat – and I have time to sit down and enjoy it! If I’m still hungry after they leave (not likely, but possible) , I have the time *and* I have access to a full refrigerator full of ritual feast leftovers and a cupboard that always contains a jar of chunky peanut butter. Coven leadership is not hungry work.

I don’t have to suffer fools gladly – or at all. If a potential student or covener is just too wacky or not a good fit for my group, I don’t have to let this person join. And if I do, against my better judgment, let him or her join and the wackiness continues, I can kick the person out. At a gathering, the lady who insists on loudly “communing” with the innocent black snake stretched across the path because she’s convinced it’s her (still living) ex-husband who promised he’d contact her during the weekend – well, she paid good money to be there, and I can’t kick her out because she’s not hurting herself or anyone else, even if she is clearly a few cards short of a full tarot deck.

Weather doesn’t negatively impact my job. When I am running rituals or teaching a class, I can choose to keep everyone inside my climate-controlled home if the weather is too hot, too cold, or too wet. I don’t have to worry about myself, my family or my students getting hypothermia when the temperature drops from a balmy seventy-five degrees to a wet, white hail-covered forty degrees in less than three hours. I can light a fire in my living room fireplace and go on with my cozy indoor drumming circle. I don’t have to deal with heat exhaustion (mine or anyone else’s) , nor do I have to call an ambulance because an attendee slipped on wet grass after a very rainy main ritual and possibly broke her leg.

Problem solving is much easier. If an issue comes up between two or more members of my coven, I have time to talk to the involved parties – people who, in the last seventy-two hours, have eaten a reasonable amount of food, slept their usual hours per night and who aren’t sunburnt, bug-bitten, frozen and/or emotionally crispy from stress and Pagan Energy Overload Syndrome. In short, I am not dealing with a fellow festival-running volunteer or an attendee.

And as I mentioned, I also have the luxury of *time* -- I can take a few days or even weeks to consider the problem (in my own well-fed, well-rested state) , consult with my working partner/High Priest, and come to a reasonable, well-thought out solution that either I or my High Priest have the authority to present to the offended parties. At a gathering, I don’t have time.

All problems – underage teen drinking, openly pot-smoking adults, theft of the vendors’ wares on Merchant’s Row, a Parking Coordinator who never supervised car placement and now a couple hundred cars are all randomly parked any which way, a Registration Coordinator on a power trip, the Entertainment Coordinators who decide AT THE FESTIVAL that they want to get a divorce and won’t stop screaming at each other, the music guest of honor who shows up with a restraining order against her partner that I’ll have to enforce if he shows up, an outbreak of chicken pox, a woman going into labor – have to be dealt with RIGHT NOW, or at least within the next hour or two.

And since the buck stops with the Festival Coordinator, I don’t have the luxury of a co-coordinator or working partner who has as much authority as I do.

If you’ve been volunteering (or considering volunteering) with your local festival’s committee, these are things to consider before you don the mantle of Coordinator. I’d like to tell you I made even one of the above problems and scenarios up, but I didn’t. Every single one of them happened during my years as Festival Coordinator for one of the largest east coast Pagan gatherings (okay, except for the hypothermia one; that was at a festival in New Mexico run by a dear friend of mine) – and they could happen to you.

How would you handle them?


Bronwen Forbes

Location: Bloomington, Indiana

Author's Profile: To learn more about Bronwen Forbes - Click HERE

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