Volunteers pitch in at arts festival Over 300 residents to contribute time

June 15, 1993|By TaNoah V. Sterling | TaNoah V. Sterling,Staff Writer

More than 300 county residents are volunteering for the Columbia Festival of the Arts this year -- handling everything from selling T-shirts and food to building stages and providing temporary homes for visiting actors.

Whatever the job at this year's 10-day festival (June 18-27), the hundreds who are pitching in are the heart of the event that has become Columbia's biggest, says Leslie Landsman, volunteer coordinator.

"They do just about everything. We have a list of about 30 jobs and we ask the volunteers to sign up for their top three preferences. We try to give them one of those jobs. I usually try to find a spot for everyone who applies," she said.

"Last year we had over 300 volunteers and about half were returns and half were new. I'm always overwhelmed at people who want to do this. It seems the more they do, the more they want to do. The trouble is finding enough jobs for all of these people to do," she added.

This year some volunteers have even opened their homes to seven visiting actors from New York and Scotland.

The actors, who will perform beginning June 24 in the play "The Homecoming Project", arrived May 23 to begin rehearsal. Festival organizers say a monthlong hotel stay for the actors would have been too expensive.

"It's just been great," said Janet Styles, a Columbia resident who is playing host to Scottish actress Flloyd Kennedy. "We talk all the time about growing up and the differences over there and here in America. I just love having people from different countries in my house."

Mrs. Styles and Mrs. Kennedy share a lot in common. Mrs. Styles is a native of Greenock, Scotland, and she and her family have lived in Australia. Mrs. Kennedy is an Australian who now lives in Glasgow, Scotland.

"We told Flloyd and the other actors that we're coming to visit them in Scotland next year," said Mrs. Styles, who has volunteered to sell tickets and has done clerical work for the festival for the last two years.

Gayle Van Horn, who is putting up Andrew Wardlow from Scotland, says her guest is "very personable and very complimentary. He its right in," she said.

The actors also say the arrangement has been a good fit.

"I'm having a wonderful time. America is everything I've ever heard about it. The people are friendly, generous, and open-hearted and Columbia is such a nice community. I haven't seen a bad side at all," Mrs. Kennedy said. Her temporary home, she added, is "very relaxed and very pleasant."

Joe Alves from Scotland, who's staying with John and Margaret Mardall of Ellicott City, said the weather has been a pleasant surprise.

"The weather had been the biggest thing that I've had to climatize myself to. This is the kind of weather we get once every 50 years there," Mr. Alves said.

He said there was one other thing that was very different about Columbia. "One of the things that surprised

me about Columbia is the lack of pedestrians. I wondered what was wrong at first, but then I realized there were no pedestrians. In my town a lot of people walk places," he said.

While every job doesn't have an international flavor, Ms. Landsman said she thinks people continue to volunteer because it allows them to enjoy the festival in a personal way.

"I think people enjoy it because it's such a happy event and the festival has grown in five years. It's such a nice opportunity for people to contribute in a positive way," she said.

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