The folks who put the life in the Humboldt Folklife Fest

TEAM 2017 Volunteer Coordinator Anne Ginne, Festival Coordinator Anna Gaines and volunteers Terry Uyeki and Laura Olson met last week to strategize over beer and pizza. Janine Volkmar | Union

Janine Volkmar
Mad River Union

BLUE LAKE – The Humboldt Folklife Festival, now in its 39th year, is all about volunteers. Laura Olson is one of that good company of helpers. She’s lived in Blue Lake for 16 years and always does whatever is needed.

“I usually just stay and pick up hay bales,” she said at the pre-festival volunteer pizza and beer gathering at Mad River Brewery last week. “I walk over from my house and if they need help, I just hop in. Olson has been coming to the festival with her two sons for years. Now her youngest is in the steel pan band at Blue Lake School.

Volunteering is a value she has instilled in her sons. “The festival is free and it’s important that if you want to make it available to all people, you step up and volunteer,” she said.

Another longtime volunteer, Terry Uyeki agreed. “It changes every year and there are all kinds of music,” she said. Uyeki urged people to come to the Folklife Society’s Barn Dances. “I came to my first one as a volunteer,” she said. She specially likes the multigenerational aspect of the barn dances. A barn dance will be held Friday, July 14 at the Arcata Vets Hall at 7:30 p.m.

All other events in the week-long festival are at various locations in Blue Lake. Read The Hum in this week’s edition, or visit for details.

The volunteers were greeted and thanked by Patrick Cleary, past president of the society. Cleary said the festival’s purpose has always been “to encourage and celebrate our local musicians.” He demonstrated that encourage- ment for the volunteers by carrying pitcher after pitcher of beer from the bar to the meeting table.

Volunteer coordinator Anne Ginne passed out signup sheets, answered questions for the new volunteers who had shown up, and welcomed back the faithful. Then she announced that she was “out of announcements” and joined the pizza fest.

New festival coordinator Anna Gaines was introduced. She is also the director of the very ne vocal group, A Company of Voices. The women from that group will be singing at the festival under the name of The Ladybugs.

The buzz at the table was about the inclusion of Capitol Recording artist Jenny Scheinman. Scheinman is a jazz violinist and Petrolia native who now tours and plays with the likes of Bill Frizzell and Norah Jones. She is on the lineup for the Bluegrass Night, Thursday, July 13, but rumors were flying that she would sit in on Jazz Night, Monday, July 10.

If you want to know what’s happening, ask a volunteer.

Volunteers were told that they might just be answering mundane questions such as “where is the bathroom?” but that they would be the face of the Humboldt Folklife Society at the festival. If folks want to know more about the other great things the group does, for instance the workshops or children’s classes, or the Buddy Brown Blues Fest, they would be the go-to source.

Interested in joining this group of dedicated volunteers? Check out Better yet, stop by the information table when you are there and say howdy and thank you!