September 2011 - Volunteer Spotlight - Amy Freitag
Repeat MerleFest volunteers tend to become part of a cohesive group that we like to call the MerleFest Volunteer Family. Usually they see one another only during the last weekend in April in Wilkesboro, N.C. But often volunteers find that they meet new friends at the festival who happen to be their neighbors at home. Amy Freitag, of Beaufort, N.C., has discovered lasting friendships at MerleFest with other coastal dwellers. “I’m beginning to have my MerleFest friends, who I see only at the festival. Many of these folks are other stage crew volunteers. This year, too, I met a number of other residents of the coast who had made the trek—and so I get to see them at home too! It was definitely one of those small-world moments this year when I met the cousin of one of my research participants on the shuttle bus.” She feels that even though there are thousands of people at MerleFest, it is still a small community.
Amy, a Ph.D. candidate in Marine Science and Conservation at Duke University’s marine lab, learned about the volunteer program from other graduate students at Duke who began organizing a group to attend the festival and volunteer. As with many of our volunteers, they began helping out to make the festival more affordable for themselves (volunteers receive free entry for each day they work one shift), but they keep returning because they have so much fun and truly love the music.
“Sam Bush is always a great show,” says Amy of the MerleFest music she enjoys most. “But I think my favorite rotates each year—the new people I find out about on some of the smaller stages. Last year it was Balsam Range, the year before it was Dehlia Low. It’s inspiring to hear so many great new bands.”
Amy’s family always fostered her interest in music by giving her fiddle lessons, buying CDs , and taking her to concerts. Some of her non-music interests include knitting, hiking and camping—“Pretty much anything outdoors.” She continues, “My most recent project has been to adopt two Nigerian Dwarf goats to add to my little backyard farm. I live right in town, so it’s always entertaining to see people who walk by do a double-take when they realize the creature in the yard is not a dog. The neighborhood kids love to come by and say hello.” She also writes for a blog (southernfriedscience.com) that helps marine scientists get the word out and connect what they do with other things going on in their region.
MerleFest volunteers not only receive free entry to enjoy great music and have fun with people who have similar interests, but they are an important part of this fundraiser for Wilkes Community College. Amy comments, “I think the festival showcases the community college system as a mainstay of local institutions and preserver of their traditions. I’m sure the festival is immensely helpful to the local economy, but also helps the mission of many other community colleges when attendees return to their own communities.”