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IJA FESTIVAL VOLUNTEERS – Who Are Those People Helping Every Year at the IJA Fest?

As I prepare to attend yet another IJA Festival / Convention at the end of the month, I think it’s appropriate to think about those wonderful people who make such an event run smoothly.  The IJA Festival is a carefully planned and executed week, much more so than most similar get-togethers elsewhere.  And, most of those people who do the planning and execution of those plans are unpaid volunteers.

Now, each year there is a Festival Coordinator (many thanks to Jim Maxwell for handling this year’s job), and the Board and Officers do a lot as well, but I thought it would be interesting to profile a few of the festival volunteers who come year-after-year, giving of much of their time without any pay in return.

This isn’t an exhaustive article, and even a list of the regular volunteers would be incomplete, though I’ll list a few that come to mind here – Merry Spahr (Numbers Championships Co-Director with yours truly), Viveca Gardiner and NeilFred Picciotto (Stage Championships Co-Directors), and Jay Ko and Henry Benton (Festival Videographers) are volunteers that spend much of their time working at the festival and have done so for many years now.

Scott_MerryScott Cain and Merry Spahr, Numbers Championship Co-Directors

VivecaGViveca Gardiner

nfpicciotto1NeilFred Picciotto

DSC01714Jay Ko and Henry Benton

For this article, I’m going to profile five additional individuals – Dina Scharnhorst, Mike Sullivan, Marilyn Sullivan, Jack Kalvan, and Art Thomas. My hope is that you will come away from this with a better understanding and appreciation of the work these volunteers do at (and in preparation for) the festival, and that maybe you’ll give an extra thank you or hug to them if you see them in El Paso! Better yet, maybe this will inspire you to want to step into one of these larger volunteer positions sometime in the future.


DINA SCHARNHORST

DinaS 2

eJuggle: What is your volunteer role at the IJA Festival?

Dina: Although I am officially the Volunteers Coordinator, I also serve as paramedic, beginning juggling instructor (to any and all who ask), and general Answer Lady: People keep asking me where they can find things and I try not to disappoint!

eJ: How long have you been performing this role?

Dina: With the exception of a few breaks for me to go back to school and simply attend the Festival without working, I have served in this capacity for the better part of 21 years.

eJ: What would you like Festival attendees to know most about the function you serve?

Dina: I am there to wrangle volunteers for the many needs of the Festival: security, ushering, timekeeping, registration, distribution of the T shirts, etc. I also try to have people on hand to act as Juggling Ambassadors… jugglers who might be available to take local spectators around the gym, explaining the sights and various props being used so they might gain a better understanding of who we are… and perhaps by doing so, these spectators will want to stay longer and buy a spectator pass.

eJ: What would you like readers to know about you – the person and the juggler?

Dina: Although I don’t consider myself a very proficient juggler, I’m always open to trying something new… if you are very patient with me! Otherwise, I like to think of myself more as a support person: rendering aid to fellow jugglers, as it were.

eJ: What is your favorite part of the IJA Festival?

Dina: Catching up (you should pardon the term) with all the friends I haven’t seen in a year; I love the amount of hugs I get from everyone on a daily basis! And I always look forward to seeing the many people from around the world who come to the Festival. It is always exciting to see the next young champion who is practicing.

Dina


 MIKE SULLIVAN

MikeSullivan5

eJuggle: What is your volunteer role at the IJA Festival?

Mike: At the IJA Festival, I serve as the Registrar and Operations Director/Advisor.  This means that I am at the main desk to greet you, check you in, give you your credentials and package, and receive any payments still due.  I sell tickets and T-shirts and deal with things like lost tickets.  The main IJA desk is where people come with questions, so I have to be the 411 person as well.  I am at the desk from before 9am until 4pm.  After the desk closes, I’m responsible for tracking the cash and credit card receipts, depositing those, reporting sales and registrations to the Festival director, and taking an inventory of items.  This takes me until well past dinner time.  There is a lot of work before the festival for me as well, including serving as the pre-fest registrar and coordinator of registration and operations ahead of time.  I have to track who has registered and paid for what, buy items such as shirts and lanyards, and produce the tickets, booklets, and badges.  This job is not for the faint of heart.  It’s a lot of work and you have to give up your festival to ensure that everyone else has a great festival.

eJ: How long have you been performing this role?

Mike: I’ve been doing this since 2009, when I served as both the Festival Director at the 2nd Winston-Salem fest and ran registrations.  I replaced Jerry Martin, who had performed a wonderful job in this capacity for many years.  I had been working at the main IJA desk in smaller capacities since 2004, helping Don Lewis and Martin Frost.

eJ: What would you like Festival attendees to know most about the function you serve?

Mike: I want everyone to think about the people who have worked for the better part of the last year to make this festival happen.  I’m always amazed that a few dozen people work separately, with some coordination, without having seen each other and having to come to a strange city and a new building and make this wonderful event run as smoothly as it does.  Please appreciate the pre-fest and at fest work, effort, frustration, sweat, and hours that went into these preparations.  We do it because we love the people who come.  We love juggling, the IJA, and the festival.

eJ: What would you like readers to know about you – the person and the juggler?

Mike: I’ve always been a hobbyist juggler.  I learned when I was nine, but didn’t get serious about it until I was 35, and joined the IJA.  My first ever juggling festival was in 1990, and my first IJA was in St. Louis in 1991.  I’ve only missed two since then.  The IJA has amazing people and amazing juggling.  I am now retired from my job and juggle more than ever.  I lived in Dallas and worked for Epson for over 25 years as a Training Manager.  My wife Marilyn and I have moved to Kissimmee, Florida for our retirement.  I have a friend who I’ve taught to pass clubs here and we juggle quite a lot now.  I’ve taught many people to juggle in my neighborhood, including many kids.  I plan to keep coming to IJA Festivals, but hope to step back from some from my festival responsibilities if we can find some replacements, so I can actually do some juggling at the fests.

eJ: What is your favorite part of the IJA Festival?

Mike: My favorite part is getting to see the shows and championships.  This is my reward for a hard day’s work.  To get to see some of the best jugglers in the work is great, and then to get to meet and befriend some of them as well has been rewarding.

MIkeS2


 MARILYN SULLIVAN

MarilynShoteJuggle: What is your volunteer role at the IJA Festival?

Marilyn: I serve as the Membership Director and Chief Teller at the IJA festival.  This includes duties related to checking to make sure registrants (both pre-registered and on-site registrants) for the festival have Active IJA Memberships.  I help process new memberships for those that renew or sign-up for the first time at the festival.  I also run the Board of Directors election.  For this, I prepare the ballots and ballot box, create an election report which is shared with the current Board, run the election, and count the ballots.  This year, I will be helping members tweak their information (such as converting to a family membership) using the new AMS system we call Your Membership.

eJ: How long have you been performing this role?

Marilyn: I’ve been serving in these capacities since we became an all-volunteer group, so that is likely over 10 years.

eJ: What would you like Festival attendees to know most about the function you serve?

Marilyn: I’m here to help and you can usually find me with at the registration desk with my husband Mike.

eJ: What would you like readers to know about you – the person and the juggler?

Marilyn: My husband Mike and I are retired.  I enjoy reading murder mysteries.  After a 30 year hiatus, I am again playing the piano.  I am accompanying local groups at shows and recitals.  I also teach line dancing, which keeps the body and the mind active!

eJ: What is your favorite part of the IJA Festival?

Marilyn: My favorite part of the festival is the Games.  It’s fun to both watch and participate in the games. I think it’s neat that professionals compete right next to hobbyists, even beginners, in some of these games.

MSullivan2


 JACK KALVAN

Jack

eJ: What is your volunteer role at the IJA Festival?

Jack: I make the XJuggling competition happen. And sometimes, I am asked to judge stage and other competitions.

eJ: How long have you been performing this role?

Jack: El Paso will be the 11th year running XJuggling. …and my 32nd year attending the IJA festival. Hard to believe.

eJ: What would you like Festival attendees to know most about the function you serve?

Jack: People seem to like it XJuggling, so I keep doing it. Every year, I try to make it more exciting to watch and more fun for competitors. XJuggling is always evolving. If anyone has ideas about how to make the event better, please contact me anytime.

eJ: What would you like readers to know about you – the person and the juggler?

Jack: I love juggling and other circus skills. I have been very fortunate that people keep paying me to do my little tricks. Still I keep learning, and always evolving.  Doing my best to live a good life by my own rules.  Also, that I put on my sparkly unitard one leg at a time, like everyone else.

eJ: What is your favorite part of the IJA Festival?

Jack: Hanging with my friends. See you in El Paso.

JackK 2


ART THOMAS

Art

eJ: What is your volunteer role at the IJA Festival?

Art: My volunteer role is as the producer of the Youth Showcase, which traditionally is the first part of an evening show that is paired with the Junior Championships.

eJ: How long have you been performing this role?

Art: I’ve been doing this for about five or six years, but took a year off at Quebec City last year.

eJ: What would you like Festival attendees to know most about the function you serve?

Art: The Youth Showcase is an opportunity for young jugglers who are not ready or willing for competition to present their skills in a supportive environment. Some of the performers are very young….under seven years old….and enjoy the “spotlight.” Some have developed nice routines that are appreciated by the juggling-savvy audience. Some are ensemble pieces that have been created for a one time presentation. Through emails with the performers or their parents, I try to get a sense of the act and then to program the Youth Showcase to a a solid, stand-alone performance.

eJ: What would you like readers to know about you – the person and the juggler?

Art: I’ve been a member of IJA since the Akron festival in 1987 when Saint Ignatius High School in Cleveland started a juggling group. I’ve missed only two festivals since then. This is the 31st year of The Circus Company. It is the part of my teaching career of which I am the most proud.

eJ: What is your favorite part of the IJA Festival?

Art: At the festivals, I enjoy watching my students become inspired by other performers and their interactions with teens who have interests similar to theirs.

 Art t 2

 

2 years ago by in Featured , IJA , Profiles. You can follow any responses to this entry through the | RSS feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
About

Scott Cain is an IJA Life Member, IJA Numbers Championships Co-Director, a former Numbers gold-medalist, Teams medalist as a member of Raising Cain, Musical Theater Critic for Talkin’ Broadway (Cincinnati/Dayton), and assistant curator/researcher for the Museum of Juggling History (www.jugglingmuseum.com). Scott is also currently an IJA Board Member. He and his family live in Cincinnati, Ohio (USA).

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