Like most communities, Ottawa has a legion of people who volunteer their time to raise money and to give a helping hand. Some of these people are near saints with their tireless devotion to the greater good.
Others are Bluesfest volunteers.
You do not become a Bluesfest volunteer because you want to make a difference in the lives of people. You become a Bluesfest volunteer to get free entrance to the festival and maybe get up close and personal with Jim Cuddy or Elvis Costello. To get an autograph. To get a bird's eye view of the stage.
It isn't one of those great volunteer gigs for Ontario students who have to get their volunteer papers signed to graduate high school. The Bluesfest volunteer brigade is comprised of a lot of people who don't want to pay for the privilege of seeing bands.
A lot of public servants take weeks off every year to carry garbage, pour beer or guard the gates from interlopers. The Bluesfest volunteer system is a lot like a pyramid scheme. It takes years to get a decent volunteer gig and those at the top are entitled and smug.
The rest of the volunteers can only be described as a little rough around the edges, oversized women in tube tops, middle aged men in wife beaters and bandanas. The more cultured volunteers take tickets; the more base volunteers strong arm drunks off the stage and on to the street.
That's why the volunteer brigade is run like an army.
It's a marvel to watch.
I'm not much of a volunteer myself because I don't like doing manual labor for dubious rewards. If I want to see Jim Cuddy, I'll buy a ticket. But if you are looking for the best volunteer gig at Bluesfest, here's my suggestion. Volunteer for the Ottawa Blues Society. This work involves standing in front of a tent for four hours and selling t shirts.
We did it one year and it was awesome.
And we didn't need to feel like we needed a shower afterwards.