February 2011 Volunteer Spotlight - Dan and Mike Armstrong
Dan Armstrong of Evans, Georgia, and his son Mike of Golden, Colorado, make volunteering at MerleFest into an annual family reunion. In fact, for twelve or thirteen years it was a three generation event as Dan’s father, a talented picker, drove from upstate New York and met the family at the festival. Unfortunately, he is not able to drive that far any longer, but Dan still meets his children at MerleFest. This year his youngest will be attending for the first time.
MerleFest 2011 will be the third year of volunteering for Dan and Mike. “I have been to seventeen MerleFests, so I have had lots of chances to see the volunteers in action,” Dan says. “I always promised myself that once my sons finished with baseball, when I knew for sure I could commit to the whole weekend, I’d volunteer. College baseball finished up three years ago, and I’ve been volunteering since then. I have been very impressed with the way the volunteer program is organized and run.”
Like many loyal MerleFest volunteers, Dan and Mike have added another name to the volunteer roster. “For the past two years we have even recruited a good family friend to volunteer with us. In that process, I think we turned a normal fan into another bluegrass and Appalachian music nut.”
Dan, a civil engineer and a manager with a large engineering and construction company, and Mike, a graduate student at the Colorado School of Mines, come to MerleFest eager to help out in any way they can. They have worked as stage ushers and have carried heavy boxes to the food vendors. Of their volunteer work Dan says, “Obviously this is a world-class event that is run in a world-class fashion. Being able to be a part of raising funds for Wilkes and being able to give back is very rewarding. I guess this fundraiser is extra special for me since I’ve been able to see it grow and develop for a couple of decades now.” Mike agrees, “I have been to many music venues, large and small. MerleFest is at the top of the list, a real class operation with great people.”
For a long-time MerleFest fan like Dan, there are many memories to share—like the festival right after a flood when the chairs sank into the ground. “But,” recalls Dan, “everyone still had a great time!” He remembers Emmy Lou Harris being presented a guitar with a rose inlay as a gift and John Hartford “appearing” in the crowd during his set with a wireless microphone. He also remembers staying up late in the campground and lying awake later listening to jam sessions. And, one more memory—Dan’s high school teacher was the father of one of the members of Donna the Buffalo! Mike finds that for someone his age to see true legends like Doc Watson, Dolly Parton, Loretta Lynn and Willie Nelson is a very unique opportunity.
Mike is an avid outdoorsman who enjoys hiking, camping, travelling, snowboarding and kayaking. Dan also enjoys outdoor activities in addition to woodworking, classic cars and disaster relief and hurricane reconstruction work. Three years ago Dan followed his son into kayaking. “In addition to many small local trips, last year I kayaked Key West, Florida, the Savannah River, the Susquehanna River, the Colorado River below the Hoover Dam, Grand Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park and Seneca Lake in New York. My message here is, ‘Go try something new!’”
Good advice from Dan! Maybe that something new for some of you will be to volunteer at MerleFest 2011. We hope to hear from many of you soon!