Point of View


Volunteer Leader Presents Family Fest, Jonathan Stout
June 28, 2010, 9:30 pm
Filed under: Volunteerism

The Adrienne Arsht Center presents Family Fest, a free series featuring family-friendly out-of-doors activities and performances! Your entire family will have a blast at this fun-filled day full of music, dancing, hands-on demonstrations, and mini-workshops. 

Sounds like a lot of fun, doesn’t it?  And believe me it is.  But that small enticing paragraph deceptively hides all the intricate moving parts and behind-the-scenes activity that it takes to bring such an event to life for our community.

How do I know?  Last October I had the honor of being selected as the volunteer leader assisting with the coordination of this season’s Family Fest series.  I have been a volunteer with the Adrienne Arsht Center since its grand opening in 2006 as an usher and ticket-taker and now I was given the opportunity to do even more.

Jonathan Stout

So, what is it like to put on a celebration showcasing hundreds of performers and entertaining thousands of families and fellow South Floridians? In a word: Exciting.  Family Fest events run on Saturdays, but the planning and preparation goes on for months in advance.  That is where the Center’s staff from all the various departments each contribute to that singular goal – enriching the community. 

But those caring individuals who work at the Center are only half the picture.  I would bet that their numbers are equally matched, and possibly exceeded by the large foundation on which this event rests.  Of course, I am referring to our volunteers. 

Under the leadership of Evelyn Gigiras and Carolyn Woodyer, the Center has put together an outstanding core of dedicated and civic-minded volunteers who have taken on the Adrienne Arsht vision of supporting the arts, the community and the idea that giving back is its own reward.

Each Family Fest event and the activities, has its own theme, which weaves itself into the content of the free performances offered directly after the festival.  For instance, one particularly engaging motif  was the “Step Afrika” experience.  There were hundreds of children, all making African shakers as colorful as nature itself.  They were decorated with fanciful feathers and stitched with twine.  Filled with rumbling beads, they made a joyful sound as the youth practiced with their newly created instruments.  And it was not just the kids in the group that participated, if you know what I mean.

Along with the musical performances in the sun washed outdoor Parker and Vann Thompson Plaza for the Arts, participants could also take part in a “movement class” being offered in the Peacock Foundation Studio.  At the class, the assembled listened to some background and instruction on the art of movement, and then were directed to try it themselves.  They gathered, as a group, expressed themselves spiritedly and many found a little something inside they had not known before.

Then there was food and laughter, dancing and face painting, roaming characters and more.  At the later part of the day, nearly two thousand headed into the Knight Concert Hall for the free Step Afrika performance, on stage for a one hour show.  And when the day’s events started to come to a close it was only just beginning.  Because children and adults alike went home happy, satisfied and with a new love that only comes from new experiences.

And how was that all possible?  With Volunteers!  It takes a large number of people willing to help to make sure it all goes well: to keep the kids motivated to try new things; to open their eyes to new wonders; to give them life awareness and to help them with their scissors and glue.  Volunteering is not just about showing up – it’s about giving back.  It is about the time you share with others, and the common goals that are reached through working together.

My role as a volunteer leader is merely a conduit to funnel all this goodness in the right direction.  I cannot make sure the projects are getting created, the faces are getting painted, the dance movements are graceful and meaningful, or the artists appear on stage at the right time, but I know I can count of my volunteers to do that.  I thank them for their contribution to the arts, their community and to the Center.

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