Whole Earth Festival volunteers patrol the karma

When volunteering for a festival, there are the standard tasks that need to be done, such as parking, food service, as well as helping to set up and tear down the festival’s activities. But what does it mean to be in the Whole Earth Festival (WEF)’s volunteer group called the Karma Patrol?

“I think there are three types of festival-goers,” said Willee Roberts, a senior international relations major and co-director of Karma Patrol. “There are festival-goers that enjoy the festivities for a few hours, there are those that take a couple days completely submerging themselves in all that the festival offers and then there’s Karma Patrol.”

The Karma Patrol holds meetings to train volunteers every Wednesday leading up to WEF. The next meeting will be held Wednesday at 7 p.m. in the Zinfandel Lounge at the Experimental College.

It is at these meetings that old and new Karma Patrollers of all ages get to know each other through bonding games and interactive informational discussions about various events and positions, as well as the Non-Violence Communication Workshop.

Adam Smith, a former Karma Patroller, said that the workshop is basically a practice in effective communication.

“The idea is not to pacify people we’re talking to,” Roberts said. “Since there is a political protest element to the festival, the workshop familiarizes Karma Patrollers with the university’s rules, and some things that the festival is founded on, such as protecting freedom of expression.”

After completing the Non-Violence Communication Workshop, volunteers become officially certified, a skill they can add to their resumes.

However, the pre-festival training is just one aspect of Karma Patrol’s function and make-up within the Whole Earth Festivities. There are many volunteer positions that are uniquely characteristic to the event itself, adding the final touches to the festival atmosphere.

A position called “space-keeping”  requires a pair of Karma Patrollers to walk around the Quad together, utilizing non-violent communication when needed, keeping an eye out for any potential conflicts and making sure everything is running smoothly with craft and food vendors.

When the sun goes down, the festivities don’t usually come to an abrupt close, so that’s where the Karma Patrol’s Night Ninjas come in.

Night Ninjas are WEF’s night-time security. They also help close down the festival for the day.

“Very interesting stories come from the night ninjas,” Smith said. “It’s definitely a rewarding experience.”

Another important position, which is somewhat of a combination of space-keeping and Night Ninjas, is stage-sleeping. Stage-sleepers bring sleeping bags and sleep on the stage so that nothing is vandalized.

“It’s very much like having an accountable slumber party,” said Anne Litak, a senior English major and co-director of WEF.

A fundamental WEF volunteering position is logistics. Logistics volunteers play a crucial role on Sunday night, the last night of WEF, when the campus must be completely cleaned up and put back to its normal appearance.

“This will give whoever decides to volunteer a foundation for doing other things,” Litak said. “It’s also a job that would potentially be a paid position at other festivals.”

If a volunteer has experience with kids and has a passion for simply making them happy then there’s the Kids Space. This is where patrollers watch out for kids in all aspects whether they’re playing with insects, crafting, playing in the kids dome, face painting and listening during story time.

In keeping WEF litter-free and eco-friendly, the Whole Earth Reusable Cooperative holds a “soapie party” in the ASUCD Coffee House dish room to wash plastic plates and utensils for reuse. Compost and recycling Patrollers stand near the trash bins, teaching people about compost and recycling and sorting the bins.

To find out more about Karma Patrol, visit: www.facebook.com/WholeEarthFestival.

DOMINICK COSTABILE can be reached at features@theaggie.org.

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