Woodstock volunteers are honored in a day of gratitude

(Photo by Dion Ogust)

They are firefighters and planning board members; they run the Walk in Closet and the soup kitchens. They will race to you in a medical emergency, and they tend the flowers on the Village Green. Christmas Eve, Meals on Wheels, or Shakespeare at the Comeau…Over 60 organizations get the nod. That means nearly a thousand Woodstockers get celebrated with the town-wide picnic, awards, plenty of music and evening fireworks that marks every Woodstock Volunteers Day that rolls around. And that means further community-minded folks, including even more volunteers, bringing together the spreads of food, stage equipment and other accoutrements that go into the making of all such grand Woodstock events.

Dubbed a “Day of Gratitude” and set to take place from 2 p.m. until 8 p.m. or so, on August 19 on the town’s Andy Lee Field, on Rock City Road. It is followed by the presentation of the Alf Evers Award at 8 p.m. and a dusk, the Woodstock Fire Department’s magnificent 23rd Annual Fireworks Display.

For Volunteers Day, it’s the 13th annual outing of this appreciative event and it is again being put on by the hard-working members of a dedicated community board grouped as WAiV — Woodstock Appreciates its Volunteers. But for the first time this year, it’s now a formal part of the town’s calendar, which set aside the third Saturday in August each year just for the event in perpetuity.


“This was an idea that Sam Magarelli had,” noted WAiV president and Family program director Tamara Cooper in a recent interview. “His intention was to honor volunteers in the Woodstock community and the Woodstock area. We at Family became involved because this is a celebration and an honoring of volunteers, and our program here in Woodstock has approximately 50 volunteers.”

As usual, the day will include activities for the children and grandchildren of volunteers: a bouncy house, giant bubbles, the Art Bus (a mobile art studio), and pony rides provided by Corinne Tracey of Olive Branch Horses. Music will include sets, starting at 2 p.m. and running until 7 p.m., from Conor Wenk and Gordon Wemp, the Joe Veillette Orchestra, A Simple Heart with Janice Hardgrove and Timothy Pitt, Tim Moore, Thunder Bear and the Bruce Ackerman Band.

A 50/50 raffle gets announced as darkness falls, followed by the announcement of this year’s Alf Evers Award recipient at 8 p.m. after which Rene Cantine performs until the time of the annual fireworks display, which started two years after Cantine kicked off an event on this weekend a quarter century ago, where he attempted a world-record guitar army playing Jimi Hendrix’s epic “Little Wing.”

“The public can buy a wristband for the children’s activities,” Cooper noted. “Musicians also donate their time and in the evening the Woodstock Volunteer Fire Department has its fireworks, which are wonderful.”


Remembering Jeremy Wilber, Victoria Langling

At 2 p.m. things kick off. Food is served free to volunteers (with discounts for their partners and kids and full price for the community) from 3 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. All is being cast in remembrance of the late Woodstock supervisor, Jeremy Wilber, and the late WAIV board member and volunteer par excellence, Victoria Langling.

Coordinating Woodstock Volunteer’s Day is its own big effort, Cooper added.

“We’re always looking for additional help,” she said. “Family of Woodstock has been actively involved in the preparation that’s done beforehand, as well as the on-site organization that’s needed the day-of for probably 11 of those 13 years. We have a small board of directors and really are a working board, so everyone participates in some way. We have to organize the music, we have to organize the food, we have to organize the pick-up of the food. We organize the tents that we put up, the chairs, and the children’s activities. Woodstock Youth Center’s young people help us with the decorations. The Woodstock Day Camp always does artwork for us to put on the tables and around the site.”

Then there are those that, despite WAIV’s long-held position that Woodstock Volunteers Day be about appreciating volunteers, and not volunteering, just can’t help but chipping in.

“Volunteers are so dedicated that sometimes we have to just say uncle and let them participate as well,” Cooper said with a laugh. “We try not to recruit any volunteers to help us on the day-of or to help with food but invariably someone will bring a desert or a dish to share because that’s just what volunteers do. It’s such a beautiful part of community, and our community in particular.”

In the final round, the whole effort does get appreciated. Which accounts for its continuance, and growth over the years.

“A few years ago we got a letter from President Obama recognizing this community event and the importance of volunteerism in the United States,” Cooper said. “We also get recognition from the County Legislature and some level of state recognition acknowledging the importance of giving back to those people who really dedicate themselves to the wellbeing of the community.”

There’s even been the creation of similar efforts in other locales, including an annual event each Martin Luther King day for county volunteers from Ulster Corps.

But the key remains the community coming out to actively thank those among it who volunteer year in and year out, making Woodstock what it is, and continues to want to be.

“Sometimes there’s something that’s always been there that people haven’t noticed,” Magarelli noted this past week, speaking of the ways in which volunteerism gets brought up when organizations need more, or in divisive patriotic terms at certain times. “A community should never take their volunteers for granted. The idea for this event is to stand shoulder to shoulder with them all, enhancing the good feeling in the community.”

For more information on all coming up Saturday, August 19, for the 13th annual Woodstock Volunteer Day, visit volunteersday.org.