August 17 looms as the liveliest of Saturdays in Woodstock, as residents prepare to gather for the ninth annual Volunteers Day townwide picnic, a separate ceremony recognizing a single citizen’s longtime commitment to volunteer service, and the traditional fireworks display that lights up the sky over Andy Lee Field, the main site of the festivities.
The picnic begins at 1 p.m. and is expected to finish around 6:30 p.m., reported Sam Magarelli, who is president of the Woodstock Volunteers Day Committee, which coordinates the yearly recognition of volunteers who donate their time, energy, and expertise to more than 60 local organizations, ranging from food pantries and soup kitchens to the public library, the fire department, and governmental advisory boards and commissions.
“A remarkable social alchemy has taken place here in Woodstock,” said Magarelli, who noted that the Volunteers Day celebration is the outgrowth of a more modest event, held years ago, that acknowledged the largely unsung contributions of the local fire department. “That opened our eyes to the wonderful things that all of these organizations do for us.”
As in past years, the 2013 edition of Volunteers Day will feature the picnic as its centerpiece. The food — the menu is chosen and prepared by more than 20 local restaurants and markets — is provided free to the honored volunteers and their families and is available for purchase by everyone else. With Andy Lee Field bedecked with hundreds of balloons and three big tents, the day’s schedule includes a guitar festival and assorted activities for children.
The organizing committee is seeking volunteers to assist with various tasks, such as setting up, managing, and supervising the site, cooking the food, and cleaning up afterward. Sponsors who wish to make donations are also welcome. Prospective volunteers or sponsors are urged to contact the committee as soon as possible. For information, visit the website volunteersday.org or call Magarelli at 679-2713, extension 3. Woodstock Volunteers Day is a nonprofit charitable organization.
In addition to Magarelli, the committee’s members are Barry Samuels, treasurer; Tamara Cooper, vice resident; Angela Sweet; Rennie Cantine (who organizes and performs in the guitar festival); Tom Seeley; Linda Seeley; Victoria Langling; Susan Carroll; Renee Englander; and Melissa Lovaglio. The organization’s founding board members are Magarelli, Samuels, Cooper, Sweet, Kevin Sweeney, Michael Stock, and Allison West Dodd.
Award and fireworks
Sometime between 8 p.m. and 8:30 p.m., after the picnic, comes the second of the day’s three festive events: the presentation of the ninth annual Alf Evers Volunteer of the Year Award, which recognizes “a lifetime of commitment and dedication to volunteer service,” in the words of Richard Heppner, who is chair of the committee that chooses the annual honoree and is the late Alf Evers’s successor as town historian. (The Evers Award committee is unrelated to the Volunteers Day committee.) The award was established by the Woodstock Town Board (as a “living memorial” to Evers, Heppner noted) and will be presented this year by the town supervisor, Jeremy Wilber.
Joining Heppner on the Evers Award committee are Kathy Anderson, Rennie Cantine, Michael Densen, Deborah Heppner, and Barry Samuels.
The town’s big day concludes with the fireworks display, presented since its inception, about 17 years ago, by the Woodstock Fire Department. It costs money to produce the kind of show — long, loud, visually breathtaking — that residents had come to expect, but which grew harder to produce as expenses mounted, said the fire chief, Michael Densen, in an interview.
Enter Joan Mack, a local resident since 1991, who in recent years has spearheaded an annual fundraising drive that enables the fire department to keep the pyrotechnics going strong for 20 to 30 minutes, which is enough to satisfy most attendees. The total cost of the display is around $11,000, including a payment of about $10,000 to the company that supplies the explosives, according to Densen. Each of the fire department’s five companies chips in $600 toward the cost, for a total of $3,000, while the town contributes $2,500. That leaves a deficit of approximately $5,500 to cover.
Mack — whose husband, Stuart Rothkopf, is a member of Fire Company No. 2 and the administrator of the Woodstock Fire District — invariably erases the deficit by soliciting donations from local businesses and residents. Donors of less than $100 receive the fire department’s thanks; those who donate between $100 to $499 appear are listed as supporters on a commemorative poster and in a newspaper advertisement; donors of more than $500 are designated as sponsors on the poster and in the ad.
To make a donation, send a check to the Woodstock Fire District Fireworks Committee, PO Box 400, Bearsville, NY 12409. Donations not only benefit the community at large, Mack noted, but are also good for business. That aerial spectacle brings people to town, bearing wallets along with their earplugs.