Friday, July 16, 2010

Picnic Pops

An annual summer tradition in the Grand Rapids area is the Picnic Pops Concerts at the Cannonsburg Ski Area. The Grand Rapids Symphony puts on eight concerts each summer on Thursdays and Fridays in a large stage at the bottom of a hill. Concertgoers bring picnic lunches and spread out on the hill to watch and listen. Sometimes they have guest artists, and sometimes they have other special things going, such as the fireworks concerts last week. This week it's a swing group called Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, next week it’s a Motown inspired group, and the following week it’s a “Tribute to the Beatles”.

The corps of symphony volunteers is there to provide many services - some work in the ticket office, others serve as ticket takers, or parking attendants. Others assist the concert goers by driving carts, or helping them carry their picnic items. My mom and dad always worked in the kitchen, which feeds the volunteers. After dad died, I took over his shift.

Working in the kitchen, I see all the volunteers as they come in from the hot sun to get something to eat. There are people from all walks of life. Former businessmen, educators, factory workers as well as high school and college students all work side by side. There are entire families who come and volunteer - what a great way to teach children about the meaning of charity!

Annamarie Buller is the volunteer coordinator for the Grand Rapids Symphony. She has the job of contacting the hundreds of people who work each summer, assigning them to their various jobs on eight different nights, seeing to their needs, and in turn seeing that their work takes care of the patrons' needs. She does all this with a cheerful smile and a great memory, greeting people by name and thanking them even when it would be so easy to growl at their seemingly endless complaints.

The Grand Rapids Symphony, like all organizations, depends on its volunteers to avoid the cost of paying for many of the services associated with putting on a performance. They can always use more hands. Volunteering with the symphony reaps more than a few rewards. Among them: working with a great group of people (you tend to see a lot of the same people from event to event), the satisfaction of helping a worthwhile organization to grow and continue, AND the opportunity to hear great music at a fraction of the ticket price! And if you volunteer at the Picnic Pops, you even get dinner!

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