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    Categories: Entertainment

Children’s Festival looking for volunteers

With less than 31 days left until the Northern Alberta International Children’s Festival sprawls its carnival-like tents across downtown St. Albert, organizers are combing for volunteers.

This playground of wonder and enchantment marks the 31st anniversary of the children’s festival, one of the longest-running and largest events of its kind in Canada.

Volunteer manager Nina Browton reminds us that without the help of passionate volunteers offering their time and services, the festival would be playing a less vital role in our community.

This well greased machine requires 800 volunteers for the five-day event running Tuesday, May 29 to Saturday, June 2. Last year a record-breaking 852 volunteers trooped down to the Sturgeon River for a blast.

“We hear volunteers say, ‘This allows me to give back to my community.’ Other people say they enjoy being part of it,” says Browton.

To get the word out, organizers are hosting a volunteer orientation night at the Arden Theatre next Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.

Although some volunteers have already registered online, the festival still needs a large body of volunteers in every area.

The bulk are needed outdoors as face painters, shuttle drivers, merchandise vendors, ushers and site attendants.

This year’s roster includes two new positions – stilt walking assistants and attendants for the newly created Toddler Town, an area designed specifically for munchkins under the age of four.

Volunteers preferring to work indoors can sign up for food service and hospitality, volunteer registration and information booths. Each shift averages about three hours.

“We would like people to work three shifts. But that’s only a guideline. We try to adhere to volunteers’ different commitments and we usually work around people’s schedules,” Browton explains.

In return, volunteers receive a festival T-shirt, lanyard, food and refreshments at the hospitality centre, a variety show and a pancake breakfast.

This year the festival has instituted a new volunteer policy. All volunteers are required to have a criminal record check and a vulnerable sector check, an additional safeguard for anyone working with children and seniors.

Browton explains that all community recreational organizations and large-scale events such as Special Olympics have put the inspection in place.

“We believe this is good risk management. The check is designed to protect not only our guests and patrons, but it also protects the volunteers. And the RCMP fully supported and recommended it.”

The local RCMP detachment will provide the service free to St. Albert residents. Normally, a form must be filled out in the jurisdiction where a person lives. However, Edmonton residents can fill out a form at the festival offices in St. Albert Place and organizers will submit the forms at no charge to the Edmonton Police Service.

At the volunteer orientation, representatives from the RCMP detachment will be present to assist in organizing forms.

Deadline for volunteer registration is Monday, May 21. For more information check out www.childfest.com.

Anna Borowiecki: Anna Borowiecki joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2000. She reports on local people and events in the arts, entertainment and food industry. She also writes general news and features.