Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Festival Season

Ten years ago it was the warped tour, five years ago it was the Finger Lakes wine festival, and last weekend it was AdFel, a festival of unconventional advertising.  In between, some of my personal favorites included Bonnarroo, grassroots, and Jazz Freedom.  Summer time is festival time and since the warped tours of my teenage years, summer festivals have always proved to be unique experiences that produce some lasting memories.  Though my favorites always seem to be the music festivals (warped, bonnarroo, peninsula) there are other types of festivals that I have also enjoyed over the years (harvest festival, wine fest, beer fest, adfel). 

Whatever the reason for celebration, summer seems to be the time to do it.  Up until this year I never really noticed that summer time is the festival season.  From the time I moved to Bucharest in September 2011 I have been constantly keeping my ears and eyes open, searching for fun things to do.  Admittedly it was kind of slow at first.  I didn’t know where to look to find things that I would find interesting.  When summertime came suddenly there were always things going on and everything lasting more than one day was called a festival. 

Adding to the excitement of summer and upcoming festivities, a large part of my position as volunteer coordinator at MaiMultVerde (MMV) was to actually work at some of those festivals.  This perk to my job at MMV was a pleasant surprise when the warm weather started rolling around.  I remembered a desire I used to have to work for free festival tickets as a volunteer at Bonnarroo and here I was, doing just that, at festivals in and around Bucharest.  I was responsible for arranging and coordinating volunteers at a MMV stand at four festivals.  At the stand we gave away some of our annual reports, sold greeting cards to raise funds for a tree-planting activity, and at times we rented out bicycles.  Pulling from MaiMultVerde’s large community of volunteers I was able to schedule shifts at the stands so that not only did we sell stuff and promote MMV, but we all had opportunities to walk around the festival and enjoy what others were offering. 

View from our stand
Festival season began with Femei pe Matasari.  Matasari is a street in Bucharest known for its shady characters and prostitution.  As the story goes, a local photographer moved into a house on the street and wanted to bring attention to the situation there in a positive way.  By doing this he started the festival Femei pe Matasari which means “the women on Matasari street”.  The festival itself is a kind of an art festival bringing together local artist exhibiting and selling their goods, and NGO’s recruiting people and gaining support in the community.  A stage was located at the end of the street as each day’s activities culminated in a musical performance after the sun went down.  The MMV stand had prime location across the street from the festival house, under a wave of suspended umbrellas, and next to a large patch of grass brought in for relaxation purposes.  The cicloteque bikes were the hit of our stand but we did end up selling quite a bit with our prime locations in a high-traffic area. 

Recicloniada was a hot Friday afternoon under a small tent spraying cool mist over me.  Ok that wasn’t it.  Yet again we had our annual reports and greeting cards laid out next to our plastic collection container resembling a tree trunk.  I sat there with Elvy, an active MMV volunteer and good friend since my early days at the NGO and Cristina, a fresh new face on the MaiMultVerde volunteer team.  A chat about Zdob si Zdub commenced soon after I noticed her strong Moldovan accent.  We sat, awaiting customers that for the most part didn’t come, and of course a concert that I had to miss for previous engagements.  The evening replacements actually made for a fairly successful Friday.  The festival itself was put on by the organization leading Romania in its efforts to collect recyclable material, Eco-Rom Ambalaje.  A free, day-long festival in the middle of Bucharest featuring some pretty well known bands was there way of getting the word out.  Actually, I can’t say that the show was free.  Entrance fee was 10 recyclable items making for a clean old city center. 

B’Est Fest stands for Bucharest Fest and it is in its third or forth year at this point.  It could possibly be the largest music festival in Bucharest even though this year it wasn’t exactly in Bucharest.  Tunari, a small village just beyond the northern boundary of the city hosted the festival this year and a tent there hosted yours truly.  MaiMultVerde was located in Green Village at the festival, though few would know.  Green Village, within sight of the main stage, was not necessarily within sight of the spectators who strolled by without noticing the stands, bright colors, bikes, and green of the tent off to the side.  Organizers of Green Village attempted to attract attention to the area by setting up an autograph series there but the only musician to actually show up when they were supposed to was a friendly young singer named Millow who gained his fame from covering a Justin Timberlake tune.  The long festival hours over the course of several days allowed for much participation on the part of MMV volunteers and during the few-day festival I had a chance not only to work with some volunteers that I knew well from previous activities, but also some new faces that will hopefully continue to take part in MMV’s actions.  Despite the weak traffic at our stand the volunteers were determined to get the word out and they took materials out of our tent to the crowds of festival goers to make the weekend’s fundraising a success.  Music highlight of B’Est included Garbage (never-ever thought I’d see this band), Subcarpati, and Caro Emerald (great show). 

Adfel Festival is a festival of unconventional advertising.  The festival itself was quite unconventional as it took place at a restaurant/club.  MMV was located off to the side in the sandy kids play area.  Though at times it seemed like a location off to the side and out of sight, with a little help from the organizers and some determination on the part of our volunteers we ended up succeeding with raising some funds.  Our stand made a strong call against the desertification of Romania by calling on the public to help us plant trees in order to avoid the looming threat of water shortages and sandstorms.  In the process they could take a picture as a Bedouin with his camel to try and foreshadow the unfavorable conditions if we continue cutting down trees.  I found the whole bit to be quite nice and fun especially considering our location in the sand.  In addition to the conditions, a co-worker of mine invited his fire throwing friend by our stand to put on a pretty neat show.  Check it out below. 

And so went festival season 2012 until now.  From what I hear there is a strong possibility for some more festivals to pop up after my time here expires, namely NGO Fest.  Personally I am not an effective salesman, never was, and never felt comfortable doing it.  Maybe this is why my great volunteer colleagues and friends were more effective at selling greeting cards and trees than I.  What I could sell and actually enjoy selling are ideas that I believe it.  MaiMultVerde is one of those things that I believe in that I don’t mind selling at least a bit.  What do I mean by selling?  I saw my job at the stand as a promoter and recruiter of volunteers for the environment.  My line was usually something to the effect of “o and by the way, we’ll send you an invitation to come plant the tree that you donate”.  The rewarding experience for me is getting out and taking action, more so than dropping money into an envelope.  It is that rewarding experience that I think can make the lives of our supporters more rich and exciting, while creating more involved and dedicated volunteers for MaiMultVerde.  Plus, I had the opportunity to check out these cool summer festivals. 


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