Summer Camp 2016: A Volunteer Perspective
Let’s be honest, music festivals are expensive. They cost more than just the ticket. You need a tent, easy-up, chairs, air mattress (if you’re old like us), sleeping bags, food, beer, gas to get there and home, the list goes on. Once it’s all said and done you can end up spending several hundred dollars.
Wouldn’t it be nice to save on the ticket cost? Well you’re in luck as this is possible at many festivals.
How is this possible? By volunteering!
We have volunteered at many festivals over the last several years. By exchanging a few hours of your time to help out with festival needs, you’re in at no cost!
Our most recent volunteer experience was at Summer Camp Music Festival in Chillicothe, IL so we’ll just be focusing on that for the purpose of this post. We’ll go into more detail about it as well as the other perks of volunteering.
What do I have to do to become a volunteer?
It depends on the festival.
Some festivals do their own volunteer coordinating internally. Others hire another company to do it for them. Summer Camp’s volunteer program is done internally. As long as their volunteer application is open, you’ll be accepted to volunteer.
First, you have to fill out an application and pay an application fee of $20. Then you will be given instructions on how to pay your deposit. It is usually the same as a full price ticket – $200 for Summer Camp. The deposit is the festival’s safety net to make sure you show up for your shifts. If you show up for all your shifts, your deposit will be returned to you a few weeks after the festival. If you fail to show up for your shifts, your deposit will not be returned.
How long are the shifts and what do I do?
At Summer Camp you’ll work 15 hours; three 5-hour shifts over three days. They also have two volunteer options, General Volunteers and Green Team. If picking up trash and sorting recyclables is your thing, then sign up for Green Team. If you’re not so into that, General Volunteers is the group for you.
We signed up as General Volunteers for our first experience working at SCamp. For our first two shifts, we were placed at the VIP entrance at the two main stages. All we had to do was check to make sure people coming in had a VIP wristband and answer any questions they may have. Other than that we got to hang out, chat and watch the music on those stages.
Not bad, right?
Our third shift was early in the morning and there was no music on, so we were placed at the front gate where we reminded people to scan their wristbands, answered their questions and gave lots of high fives. Some other possibilities are helping in the bars, VIP Lounge, box office, catering, artist hospitality and guarding backstage areas to make sure only important people get through!
What are the perks?
We were pleasantly surprised with all the perks that came with being a volunteer at Summer Camp.
We had our own entrance lane into the festival grounds that was opened long before the gates were opened to general ticket holders. This allowed us to take our time finding a prime camping spot in the woods (hello shade!) and not have to run in with thousands of other people at once.
In an effort to be as green as possible, they gave all the volunteers a commemorative, reusable water bottle. We were also shuttled around on golf carts to and from the shifts and we had prime spots for watching the music at our first two shifts.
Working the shifts was super chill. You don’t really have to do much but smile, be pleasant and answer people’s questions. Pretty easy and worthwhile considering you’re getting a free ticket for a big music festival.
You can also make new friends with other volunteers. We still keep in touch with people we met volunteering years ago.
That sounds great and all, but I’m still not sold. I don’t like to miss any music.
We hear you!
They ask you to list two bands you don’t want to miss on your application and they do their best to honor that. Luckily you can also request to work pre or post festival which will get one of your three shifts out of the way when there’s no music going on. It’s not guaranteed that you’ll be granted one of these shifts, however.
One of the best things about being at a music festival is discovering new music. So if you are scheduled to work during a set you don’t want to miss, don’t freak out. Just tell them when you show up for your shift that you really don’t want to miss it and they will try to put you at a post where you can still hear it.
Rachel even switched places with another volunteer during a set that they didn’t want to miss. So there are always other possibilities, you just have to ask!
All in all, our first time volunteering at SCamp was a huge success!
We were able to see about 90% of the sets that we wanted to, met tons of cool people, and saved $400 that will go a long way with other shows we plan to hit this summer.
If you’d like to get to more music festivals but just can’t afford the increasingly expensive tickets, you should definitely consider volunteering.
For just a few hours of easy and often fun work, you not only get into the festival for free, but you get great perks like early entry.
Almost all major music festivals have some sort of volunteer program, the details of which you can usually find on their website.
We’ve been volunteering at festivals for over a decade, and will continue to do so for years to come!