It’s our 21st year, and staffing for Seattle Hempfest has never been more vital to our cause. Cannabis legalization has become a major political issue in the upcoming 2012 elections, and events like Hempfest are essential for We, The People to tell our elected representatives and the rest of the world that Cannabis Prohibition is a failed policy, and these practices are *not* what the general public wants their tax dollars spent on.
In order to send this message as strongly and widely as possible, we need everyone’s help—in public support, in donations, and most importantly, in manpower. In the era of Blogging, Facebook, and Internet Media, too many people “support” the Cause by ReTweeting or reposting an infographic about the Benefits of Marijuana, and then merely return to the latest Celebrity Gossip or updates about the newest season of their favorite TV show. If even half of the people who offer online support to the Cause decided to become first-year Volunteers, we could fill most of our open shifts on the spot.
Every year, Seattle Hempfest successfully organizes and puts on the largest Free Speech Cannabis Protestival in the world, using an entirely Volunteer staff that works around the clock for about a week and a half in total. This is an amazing phenomenon, coordinating an event that has attracted over 200,000 people in recent years, and we are constantly being asked what people can do to help. We tell them to “come volunteer for a shift and support the cause!” and you can see that suddenly distant look in their eyes, the one that says they’d suddenly rather be anywhere else. This response is a little disheartening. For the most part, the reasons given are reasonable and legitimate: Some are on a day off and just want to “enjoy the Fest” after working 40+ hours in a week; many show up to the Fest with volunteering on their minds, see the number of people we already have, and assume “they’ve got so many people already, surely they don’t actually need me”. But then there are the people who smoke the herb and engage in the culture, but as soon as you ask them to help out, they’ve suddenly got something else important to do. Those people make us sad.
When it comes to the “would love to help, except for This Reason” people, we totally get where you’re coming from, but there are some details you should know before assuming that you don’t want to (or can’t) volunteer. First, we are not harsh taskmasters; everyone here is a volunteer, so if you come down after a 40-hour work-week and tell us “I want to help out somewhere that I can sit on my butt and talk to people”, we probably have a job like that! Second, because we’re all volunteers, nobody is forced to work a position that they don’t like or want to do. You get to choose your shifts and where you want to help out. We might ask you to lend a hand with something else for a moment, but nobody is “under orders” to obey an unreasonable or unwanted request. Of course, we have some expectations in terms of effort, and we expect our volunteers to follow the rules that we’ve set down to make the ‘Fest fun and functional for everyone. But the bottom line is, we love and appreciate all of our volunteers, and we don’t expect you to do anything outside your comfort zone.
As much as we would love to be an organization that’s fully staffed, the truth is that even if you see 100 people in Staff Shirts working around Hempfest, we probably need at least 50 more. The amount of effort and coordination that we put in is mind-blowing, and even if we have positions covered at the moment, those Volunteers will need to be relieved at some point. Even when we have full staffing during the day, there are almost always gaps in our Night Safety Crew, simply because a lot of people don’t think about the fact that we still have to keep the park secure after the Fest closes to the public. All of our shifts are a minimum of five hours long, usually with the option to work longer if you choose, and all of our shifts are overlapping. Even if you want to spend the day enjoying the Fest, you can still come back later in the evening or early in the morning, and we’ll definitely have something for you to help out with.
While our volunteers don’t receive monetary compensation, there are other benefits from working with us! Our kitchen staff is top-notch and serves meals for our Volunteers, and working a shift gets you a snazzy Staff Shirt with a unique design for the year. Of course, the biggest benefit of volunteering is that when we achieve Legalization, you can point at your work with the ‘Fest and say that you were a part of making that happen: your efforts contributed to a major step in achieving liberty and freedom for people everywhere!
You can sign up to volunteer here: http://www.hempfest.org/get-involved/volunteers/