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Volunteers invaluable at Folkmoot

Last year, Folkmoot USA relied on about 4,000 hours of community service to pull off the festival. Volunteers hosted BBQs, sold souvenirs, bandaged sprained ankles, answered phones, served four meals a day and helped in many more ways.

In April, volunteers started painting the Folkmoot Friendship Center, and people will work for a month to a month and a half after the festival ends to make sure all of the sheets are clean.

“We rely on our volunteers very heavily,” said Doug Garrett, the Folkmoot guide and volunteer coordinator. “It would be impossible to have a festival without our volunteers.”

Seasonal residents Bill and Louise Voreis have been volunteering with Folkmoot for 10 years.

Before retiring, Bill Voreis worked as an air traffic controller, and Louise Voreis taught kindergarten and their schedules kept them from spending time together. Now the couple works with each other to record the T-shirt inventory from souvenir sales.

“It’s wonderful because we can do it together,” Louise Voreis said. “These few weeks, we don’t really plan anything else.”

The inventory room at the Folkmoot Center is near the gym where they can watch the performers socialize and practice.

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“It’s just fun to watch them,” Bill Voreis said. “They don’t have any of the animosity that adults get later on. … It is the color and the young people and their energy that inspires you to be a part of it.”

Bill Voreis doesn’t hesitate to help around the center in other ways either. He’ll take out the trash, flip hamburgers and buy the performers candy bars and Frisbees as small gifts.

“You start to see the same people day in and day out, and you start to form a bond with them,” Bill Voreis said, recalling the relationship he formed with a French group a few years ago.

Louise Voreis remembers walking around the corner of the building after the closing ceremony, and her husband had on a beret that the French performers had just given him.

The couple also looks forward to seeing the volunteers they’ve made friends with throughout the years at Folkmoot. Along with Louise and Bill Voreis, the Folkmoot volunteer database contains more than a hundred names.

“We can always use more,” Garrett said.

Some jobs allow the volunteers to have close access and relationships with the performers. Others are less glamorous but not less important.

Bill Skelton and his family moved to Waynesville nine years ago on the festival’s International Day. Since then, the family has been to a couple Folkmoot performances each year.

This year, Skelton will man the Folkmoot Center during some performances for five or six nights from 6 to 11 p.m. He anticipates the night shift will be slow and hopes to get some reading done in between the office work. If he runs out of reading material, he’s got Sudoku puzzles on reserve.

“I know how much volunteers mean to different events,” Skelton said, mentioning he often relies on volunteers to accomplish his goals as the director of Haywood County Extension Services.

Skelton’s 15-year-old daughter, Jean Skelton, also will volunteer for the first time this year selling souvenirs at four events – the first being the parade.

“I can’t wait till Friday,” she said.

Jean Skelton is looking forward to practicing her Spanish, while her father is nervous about not being able to communicate with those who may need his help.

“Neither one of us really know what we’re getting ourselves into,” he said.

But both are excited to experience new cultures. Neither has had much opportunity to travel “unless you count Charlotte as a foreign land,” Bill Skelton said jokingly.

Jo Wooten, who heads the first aid room at the Folkmoot Center, enjoys her volunteer position because like the Skeltons she hasn’t had a lot of chances to travel.

“It’s giving people who don’t travel outside of the country the opportunity to learn about other cultures,” Wooten said.

She works in the first aid room from 9 to 11 a.m. every day. She organizes a rotating team of about seven doctors or physician’s assistants and 11 nurses to help in the room.

One of her biggest challenges is the language barrier, she said.

“You get good with hand maneuvers and charades or what have you,” Wooten said.

Most of the ailments she sees in the first aid room include sore throats, coughs, allergies and some injuries such as strains and sprains.

Two other nurses and one doctor or physician’s assistants help Wooten in the clinic every day. One nurse records the vital signs, and the others work in the back with the doctor or physician’s assistant.

“We try to take care of everything without sending them to urgent care,” she said.

But the need for volunteers goes beyond the first aid clinic, souvenir sales and office work.

Before the festival, a group of eight to 10 women come into the center to make the 350 to 400 beds the performers will sleep in. One man waxes the cafeteria floor every year. Painters who are short on jobs due to the recession have donated their services.

“There are so many small jobs that require so many people versed in so many talents,” Garrett said.

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