I was saddened to hear about the cancellation of this weekend’s Minden Hills Bluegrass Festival.
I was equally disappointed to learn last week that the Festival of the August Moon would have to take a one-year hiatus.
In chatting with Dennis Casey from bluegrass, and Heather Ross and Jeanne Anthon of August Moon, there is an obvious worrying trend unfolding here.
In the case of bluegrass, Casey said the average age of attendees is 60 and they are starting to wait before booking campgrounds, making organizers fearful about having the attendance to support the event. Why do they wait? Well, being older, they’re concerned about health issues popping up in the interim between booking and attending.
In the case of August Moon, it was not a financial concern that led to cancellation of the mid-August event. Rather, it was a case of the organizing committee running out of steam when faced with a few prickly issues. A reflective Ross said they don’t have problems getting volunteers on the day. It’s getting them out to planning meetings that is the challenge. They’ve also lost committee volunteers to health issues and the rest are strapped for time. It’s committee member succession that is their nemesis, she said.
Anthon agreed that finding a younger demographic of volunteers is starting to become a challenge for not just Festival Moon but other Haliburton County events. Ross talks about the garlic festival. Now that it has successfully partnered with Abbey Gardens, with access to staff, it seems to be doing very well.
For many other festivals, they still rely on activist committees, replacing staff with volunteers. But Ross is starting to wonder if this model has run its course. She ponders, too, if board-run clubs are having similar problems with recruitment. From what we are hearing, yes, many clubs and organizations are struggling to find people to step up as volunteers in varying capacities.
It’s hardly surprising when you consider 2016 Census figures for the county. We have an average age in the 50s and more than a third of us are 65-year-old plus. Many of these people form the volunteer base of Haliburton County but health issues are creeping in and they’re getting tired.
So, why is it so hard to find younger volunteers? For some, work is an impediment. For others, it’s family commitments. For some, it’s both. However, some of our clubs and organizations also need to consider how volunteer-friendly they are. For example, when they gather during daytime hours for meetings, it precludes working people from attending. And as Ross stated, many of our clubs and organizations – while they do a great job – are not attracting millennials because that age bracket isn’t interested in attending lengthy planning meetings.
One option might be remote meetings employing technology. In today’s age, there’s no reason that organizers cannot get together in the evenings over Facebook messenger, WhatsApp or other forms of videoconferencing. Ross’ approach is refreshing. She says they’ve done a poor job of succession planning. And she is considering what might be the best way forward for August Moon. We think all of our local clubs and organizations need to do the same exercise or it won’t be just bluegrass and August Moon cancelled in future.