Volunteers are lifeblood of a thriving Fallfest

Annual fair that draws 60,000 to town raises $20,000 for charity

Westminster

September 22, 2000|By Maria Blackburn | Maria Blackburn,SUN STAFF

Without volunteers at Westminster's annual Fallfest, there wouldn't be anyone to pick up trash, sell tickets to the Ferris wheel or teach children how to stuff scarecrows.

Without volunteers, Fallfest, which started Wednesday, probably couldn't raise $20,000 for a handful of local charities, money that's used to support therapeutic horse riding, anti-drug campaigns and programs for the developmentally disabled, among others.

"No volunteers, no Fallfest," said Ronald J. Schroers, Westminster's recreation director who oversees the Fallfest executive board.

The annual five-day festival in City Park - which draws 60,000 and runs through Sunday - might be sponsored by the city of Westminster, but it's the responsibility of 450-plus volunteers to plan, set up and staff the event. For the past 22 years - since Fallfest started- Roberta Kasik has donated thousands of hours of her time organizing and working at the festival.

A member of the seven-member executive board that meets year-round to plan Fallfest, Kasik, 44, is responsible for doing everything from getting the entertainment on stage on time to making sure the water cooler at the volunteer check-in station has enough cups. She hangs signs. She loads ice onto trucks. She does whatever needs to be done.

And she doesn't even live in Westminster.

Kasik, who lives in Randallstown with her husband, Brian, grew up in Westminster. She became involved in the festival in 1978 when she was the manager of the East Main Street hobby store her parents owned. The store has closed, but Kasik stayed with the festival, captivated by its practice of giving its profits away. This year, the event benefits six local charities, including 4-H Therapeutic Riding and Westminster Kiwanis Club.

"It's a great community event," said Kasik, a slight woman with sky-blue eyes, straight, waist-length blond hair and a clipboard covered with lists of things to do that never seems to be far out of reach. "We're all involved in this for a bigger cause."

Since January, Kasik and the rest of the planning committee have been meeting bimonthly. Once summer starts, the group meets more often to work out details. By the time Fallfest arrives, Kasik and other members of the executive board often arrive four hours before gates open and don't return home until after midnight.

Kasik got her husband to volunteer, too.

When she and her husband started dating in 1982, she told him that if he wanted to see her during autumn, he could find her at Fallfest. Brian, who is 43 and works as a field service engineer, started volunteering at the event. Today, he is on the festival's executive board and works as the operations manager. His duties include setting up computers that help track the volunteers and what they're doing at the event.

The Kasiks each take six days of vacation from their jobs to prepare for and work at Fallfest.

"I love Westminster," said Brian Kasik, whose father worked in town for 40 years. "There's a feeling of belonging."

The Kasiks also volunteer at soup kitchens and senior centers and with Save Our Streams, an environmental group.

Then there's their house. For the past few weeks, a brand new dishwasher has been sitting in their living room. The Kasiks have been too busy with Fallfest to install it, they said.

"That stuff can wait," said Roberta Kasik. "Fallfest is going to happen."

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