Dedicated volunteers -- that's what makes MerleFest possible, and Debby Thomas is a perfect example of that commitment. In 2008, her first year as a volunteer, Debby sprained her back the day before her first volunteer assignment. What did she do? She drove for two uncomfortable hours from Charlotte to Wilkesboro and then worked all her assigned hours during the weekend. "I feel that keeping myself moving and experiencing all the 'positive energy' probably helped my back heal faster." That year and then again in 2009, Debby worked at Nancy's Gate, assisted at Flattop's Getaway, and ushered at various stages. Of volunteering, Debby comments, "It is a great feeling to know that the efforts of everyone involved in the festival benefit not only the college students but the volunteer fire departments and other community service groups in Wilkes County as well."
Even though she and her husband have been fairly regular attendees of MerleFest for many years and actually attended the very first festival, she only began volunteering in recent years when her friend Susan Hazlewood convinced her to try it. "My husband and our two young daughters came to the very first Doc Watson music festival at Wilkes Community College really to see Carlton Moody's band. I remember that Junior Johnson (famed NASCAR driver) was there in his overalls serving pinto beans and cornbread to all of the audience, and the stage was just the flatbed trailer. We all sat on hay bales, and it was cloudy and gray and chilly. I bet Doc had no idea just how much his idea would grow from those humble beginnings."
Debby, who is a retired North Carolina teacher, has moved to Summerville, South Carolina on a temporary basis to work for a year as an Industrial Tech teacher. Her music-loving husband works for the United States Postal Service. "We have two beautiful and talented adult daughters who are both teaching at this time -- the younger in Japan as an English Language assistant and the older as an English as a Second Language teacher in Charlotte. My husband and I like to go camping in our small RV, which is where we stay when we are at MerleFest!" She also enjoys riding her bicycle, reading, and sewing aprons in her free time.
Debby Thomas looks forward to MerleFest 2010 where she will once again volunteer and enjoy her favorite performers such as the Waybacks. "There are not too many bands I don't enjoy. I really like to see members from different bands collaborate and jam in unusual situations."
MerleFest volunteers like Debby Thomas are a dedicated group who make a great festival possible. As an unknown author said, "Those who can, do. Those who can do more, volunteer." Join Debby and the rest of the MerleFest volunteer family and do more!