Monday, June 21, 2010

Delightful Bedlam

Oh, it's been a whirlwind. Every year around this time I think to myself: Why? Why in the world did you think this was a good idea? Surprisingly I am not talking about a) being married b) having children c) owning a restaurant. In fact, I am talking about running the backstage kitchen at the Winnipeg Folk Festival.

When I was eight years old, in 1978 (gasp, I know I don't look it, do i?!), my dad's best friend was on the board of the folk festival and invited my dad to come. My dad and I have similar senses of adventure so he brought me along and we both fell in love with it. We volunteered the following year (this is before people worried about age restrictions, seat belts, smoking while pregnant, general safety, etc.) and were put in the kitchen. I was given jobs to do and started a life long love affair with the place. My dad still volunteers (somehow he got the 30-year volunteer jacket and I didn't?) but he has defected from the kitchen and is now a schlepper. They drive golf carts and look pretty.

When Alex and I were 23, we were asked to take over running the kitchen. At the time, there were about 100 kitchen volunteers and we fed about 1200 people 2 meals/day for 3 1/2 days. Today, there are 3600 volunteers and probably 1500 assorted other people, including performers. This year, our crew has 250 people on it and we will be feeding everyone for seven days. It's a mammoth task.

And, though I ask myself, why in the world did you think this was a good idea?, better than ever before, I know the answer. Three years ago, we were not "hired back" (fired, I do believe) and we had to sit out two festivals. We were given other tasks but truly it was painful. I was so sad I took up running and shed 50 lbs. It was a terrible period of feeling like I didn't control anything and like I didn't know where I belonged. The best part was running. I still love it and I have learned to be somewhat more accepting of the path I find. A smidgen more zen than I once was.

Last year, a new Executive Director landed at the festival and very graciously asked us back. I leapt at the opportunity (Alex did chide me a bit for not at least pretending to think about it for a bit) I have felt completely invigorated by the experience. I am back with my peeps! I love this work more than I can say. Building a kitchen where there was bush, watching cooks become chefs, deciding what song to have the two thousand people lined up for dinner sing for their supper, sharing a glass of wine with an old friend: it is truly magical.

I am currently buried under emails, logistical problems (how to get food to one place from another, how to deal with black pepper sensitivities and vegans with soy allergies, getting people on site when I need them, making sure everyone's ordered their food, do I have enough reefer space?!), personality conflicts (it'll all be FINE, I'm sure), and lost things (I don't even know what those are yet) but I am relishing it. *sigh* I love this time of year.

Now I run to make sure I have my ducks in a row.