Last weekend I had the opportunity to volunteer at the Richmond Folk Festival as part of the bucket brigade. One of the main tenants of the folk festival, is that the event is free and open to the public. The organizers stress this by boldly stating “FREE” on their webpage. Anyone is welcome to attend and enjoy live music, regardless of their financial status. Sponsors and donations are sought to cover the 1.2 million dollar cost of running the festival, and each year it is unknown if they will make enough money to come back the next. The whole community of Richmond Virginia must come together to support, and simply pay for others who cannot.
My idea of what community is, was completely changed after attending the festival. Originally I thought communities were constrained to very local regions. I have always been under the impression that people only help those in their own community. I’m not saying this is a bad way of doing things, rather simply it is easier to see what impact my help is doing when I live there everyday. What amazed me at the folk festival was what seemed like a bus load of almost 100 ready volunteers traveled here from a Muslim church in Norfolk Virginia. For those who do not know, Norfolk is almost a two-hour drive, paralleling the James river, down the peninsula. When I asked my new bucket brigade friends why they drove so long to volunteer, they humbly stated that its just normal for them. None of them have ever been to the folk festival before, instead each year they find a new location to serve at. This perplexed me and I’m still not sure why this group of so many people chose this specific location. Maybe they wanted to stay near the James river, which they had to cross on a bridge when they left their houses early in the morning. Regardless, this seems to go against Forsyth’s Awareness-Appraisal model. Here a large group of people engaged in behavior, while seemingly skipping over the awareness and appraisal steps. None of them have ever been to the folk festival before, so I really doubt they were aware that the festival relies on donations. Instead, they must have been motivated by some sort of sense of community. Not a local community to the port town of Norfolk, but a larger community of anyone in need. This is important because I believe that if we better understand this larger sense of community, then we can push more people to take action to protect watersheds all around the globe.