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November 2008 Volunteer Spotlight - GJ & Ricky Waller

GJ & Ricky Waller

GJ and Ricky Waller truly love MerleFest. Each fall from their home in Changewater, New Jersey they start looking forward to their April visit to North Carolina. When it is time to sign up to volunteer in autumn, they start the countdown to their annual pilgrimage to North Carolina. Just applying to volunteer reminds them that spring is really just around the corner, even before the first snow. "This year will be our eleventh consecutive year, and we've loved every minute of it," said Ricky who is an Academic Librarian at St. John's University in New York City. "In fact, it's not long after the summer season is over that we begin counting the months, weeks, and days until the next MerleFest rolls around. Although it is a long drive for us to attend this festival each year, I love driving through the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia and western North Carolina in early spring!"

The Wallers learned about MerleFest through following the careers of Doc and Merle. Ricky met the Watsons at a festival in Virginia in the 1970's and later took GJ to see them. Because they had volunteered at other festivals, they realized that volunteering is a way to not only enjoy a festival, but to really be a part of it.

Their volunteer assignments have been varied through the years. These have included perimeter security, main entrance greeters, Watson Stage ushers, Little Pickers helpers, and Patron Breakfast servers. GJ enjoys serving at the Patron Breakfast as a way of giving back to some of the people who make MerleFest possible. They also enjoy helping out even when not on a volunteer shift by helping direct people who are lost or assisting when festival-goers have questions.

The family atmosphere and community spirit of MerleFest keep the Wallers coming to North Carolina from New Jersey each year. "MerleFest is the way America should be . . . good clean fun, no alcohol, no smoke, and everything with a cause," commented GJ. "Everything MerleFest does seems to bring GOOD WILL to the community! It is quite fascinating. . . All the community organizations come out and have booths, gain visibility, and do service which supports their causes. Everyone in the community truly wins. It is amazing how they transform the community college campus into a festival, reunion, and music celebration."

GJ and Ricky will be celebrating twenty-five years of marriage in 2009. Ricky said of GJ, "She is the love of my life and has been a real trooper in her willingness these last ten years to trek up and down the east coast to volunteer and rough camp at different bluegrass festivals rain or shine." This kind of dedication is also evident in their work with MerleFest. Thank you, Ricky and GJ, for helping to make MerleFest a success each year. We look forward to seeing you in 2009.