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Volunteers lifeblood of festival

By Laurel Munroe – Cape Breton Post

They say one volunteer is worth 20 pressed men. The men and women from across Cape Breton Island who give their time and energy to make the Celtic Colours International Festival a success each year are a testament to the adage.

Cultivating Cape Breton’s living Celtic culture is an important part of the Celtic Colours mandate. The living culture that prospers in Cape Breton communities where Gaelic language, music and dance have been preserved for more than 200 years owes its very existence to the dedicated support of volunteers.

Celtic Colours could not happen without the 300-plus volunteers who help bring the festival to life each year, notes Celtic Colours Festival Society board member Wayne MacIntosh.

“150 per cent right,” he says. “You just could not put on a festival of this size without volunteers – it wouldn’t happen.”

The festival society itself is comprised of volunteers who work throughout the year to plan the nine-day event, assisting with event development, professional services and talent liaison.

MacIntosh, a chartered accountant, joined the board less than a year ago. “Well, my family roots are in Inverness, Scotland and being a true Scottish type, I felt I should contribute something,” he says. “So when (festival society chair) Sam MacPhee called and asked me to be on the board, I went for it.”

Not surprisingly, MacIntosh serves on the board’s finance committee and deals with sponsorship issues.

“I’m enjoying getting to know how this type of event works and I like the sense that I’m contributing something to the community.” MacIntosh encourages potential volunteers to “just get out there and do it.”

Emily MacVicar, of Sydney, has volunteered at each Celtic Colours festival ˆ in 1997, 1998 and 1999.

She has worked on the door at the World’s Biggest Square Dance; in the Celtic Colours office; at Centre 200 handing out information packages to entertainers; and at the popular after-hours Festival Club. MacVicar says she volunteers because she wants to help promote the island and offer visitors a friendly welcome.

“I remember working the square dance and asking people where they were from,” she recalls. “It was great to meet so many people who travelled to Cape Breton especially for Celtic Colours.”

MacVicar has high praise for the many people who work behind the scenes to make the festival a success.

“The smaller venues in the rural areas rely heavily on volunteers,” she notes. “If a meal is served, an artist driven somewhere, a patron escorted to their seat or a stage decorated, most likely it’s a volunteer from, say, the ladies auxiliary, the home and school association or the community who does it.”

MacVicar is looking forward to this year’s Celtic Colours festival and encourages others to get involved.

“Not only do you get to meet interesting people but there’s also a certain satisfaction from knowing that you can help your community,” she says. “Celtic Colours is great for Cape Breton and it’s nice to see people leave with a really good feeling about the island.”

Volunteers are still needed for site and stage management, stage crew, transportation, security, front of house (ticket-takers), merchandise and office work.

Anyone interested in volunteering may contact the Celtic Colours 2000 office at 539-0044.

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