HJ/EDJune 5, 2006

Volunteers make it all happen at Winstock

By Jenni Sebora

What can a group of more than 1,000 volunteers do?

A lot! Winstock, one of the upper midwest’s premier outdoor country music festivals, is organized and run entirely by volunteers to help support private Christian education in Winsted.

What can a small group of people who share a common vision aspire to?

A lot! A drive through Regal, Minn. and its annual country festival, Cornstalk, sparked the imagination and vision of some local Holy Trinity parishioners 13 years ago, and set into motion the idea for a country festival in Winsted – Winstock.

As Dick Langenfeld drove through Regal and its annual festival, he thought; “If the small community of Regal can host a coutnry music festival (at a much smaller scale), Holy Trinity in Winsted can do it to raise money for its school,” Winstock volunteer LuAnn Ollig shared.

That thought transpired into conversation with Langenfeld’s wife, Judy, and other Holy Trinity parishioners, Tom and LuAnn Ollig, who all hopped aboard the same vision and positive attitude.

As they say, “the rest is history.”

That history has evolved from a group of dedicated volunteers who met virtually every week to get the country festival fundraiser off its feet the first year. Now, there are seemingly an infinite number of volunteers, more than 1,000, who make Winstock what it is today – a 13,000 attendee outdoor country music festival.

In fact, the festival’s first year attendance was approximately 1,200 people, with 92 campsites rented. Last year, approximately 11,200 people enjoyed the festival, with about 2,200 campsites rented. The year 2004 boasted the biggest attendance, about 13,000. Winstock volunteers expect this year’s attendance to be close to 13,000 as well, LuAnn shared.

If you talk to anyone involved in Winstock, they will say it’s the volunteers who have turned this fundraiser into what it is today – a well-oiled, “now we know what we are doing” premier event organized entirely by volunteers from, not only the Holy Trinity parish and schools, but from the city of Winsted and surrounding communities.

Although the money raised from the country music festival goes to Holy Trinity Schools, the positive effects of the event go well beyond one entity, volunteer Robert Otto noted, and volunteers Mae Stifter, Judy Langenfeld, and LuAnn Ollig agreed.

“Yes, it is a parish event and the funds raised go to the school, but it has turned into a community event,” Otto said.

Ollig, who has been on the central committee from the start, noted that people from all over the community of Winsted, and surrounding communities volunteer.

“There are a lot of people who don’t go to Holy Trinity who support it,” Ollig said.

According to Langenfeld, that volunteerism is what makes it work.

“It takes everybody who helps to make it what it is today. The event would not be what it is today without all of the people who volunteer in some way. We sure do appreciate everyone’s help,” Ollig said.

“It’s amazing how our town comes and works together,” Langenfeld said.

That volunteer help runs the gamut, from the central committee members who meet throughout the year, to the subcommittee members who may work all weekend, to the volunteers who work a four-hour shift, to other volunteers who perform different tasks before, during, or after the event.

For example, Lois Danielson is one volunteer who typed up schedules for the area farmers, who pulled wagons to transport festival attendees around those first years. Brothers Ron and Bob Otto volunteer to help out almost anywhere they are needed.

“I help out LuAnn and Betty Johnson on the food end – kind of a little “gofer” that takes care of things that they ask me to do,” Bob said.

But he also does other tasks, such as helping Ron with the grounds work and stage.

The Otto brothers take care of the Winstock land in the festival’s off season by cutting and mowing the weeds and grass and keeping it in shape.

There seems to be an endless list of people who work “behind the scenes” to make the event happen, Ollig noted. Volunteers such as the Ottos, Mae Stifter, and her daughter, Sarah, who run the volunteer tent are just a few examples of those volunteers.

The central committee members each have their own tasks to do, and areas they are in charge of to make sure things “go without a hitch,” along with people who help them so things run smoothly.

“During the first years of the festival, we virtually had to meet all the time to make sure we knew where the whole committee was at, but we no longer need to do that,” Ollig said.

The committee now takes the summer off and commences monthly meetings in the fall until a few months prior to the event, when they meet every other week or weekly.

These committee members’ tasks have transpired into near perfection. Ollig, who is in charge of the food and food vendors, has it down to a science. Because of the records kept and spreadsheets from each subsequent year’s event, Ollig has the food orders down to a “T,” she noted.

But Ollig very readily admits she couldn’t do her job without the countless help of the other volunteers. There are food subcommittee volunteers that work with her that may work all weekend, there are others who work a shift, and others who have to line up the volunteer workers in the food areas.

“And that’s a tough job,” Ollig said of those in charge of lining up volunteers.

Langenfeld, who is in charge of taking care of the artists, including reviewing the artists’ contracts, calling the road managers, and handling the artists’ catering requests, also has volunteers who work with her.

“We can count on them (the volunteers) and that’s what makes it work,” Langenfeld said.

Langenfeld’s husband, Dick, who is in charge of the grounds and cleanup when the event is over, has a host of volunteers who help him out, including the Ottos; and Joe Rasset organizes his own volunteer workers for the beer tent.

“The list of people (volunteers) goes on and on,” Ollig said.

Although volunteers have their job “down to a science,” unexpected events can occur. But there are always people willing to step in, which is a big testament to the magnitude of Winstock’s successful volunteerism.

Such an example of volunteers stepping in to help during an unexpected event occurred a few years ago when the stage blew over on the Thursday evening. By Friday morning, it was up again. As Ollig put it, “Maybe not the same way it was up initially, but it was up. People stayed up during the night to fix it.”

Although a lot of work is put into making Winstock what it is, almost any volunteer will convey that there is also a lot of fun involved.

“It’s a fun, fun time,” Mae Stifter said. “It’s a great social event, as well.”

“You meet a lot of people and talk to some of the same people who come year after year,” Bob Otto said.

Ollig agreed. “There are some jobs that are worse than others, but we have fun!”

As Stifter, a volunteer guru herself, put it, “To help keep a city vital, people need to volunteer. Every group can use help, you just need to offer.”

If that’s the case, Winstock will remain vital for a very long time.

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