Warped Tour is everything a music lover dreams of. As it travels from city to city, the excitement builds, making it the “can’t miss” event of the year. There is something for everyone in the myriad of music of all genres, sun, vendors, and crowds of fans from all over. But there is another side to Warped Tour that most of us never think about. Behind the scenes at each stop along the way, hundreds of people volunteer their time (giving up the mosh pit for the day) to help others. I volunteered at Klean Kanteen, a company that provides filtered water at no charge to concert attendees throughout the day.
Volunteering for the day is hard work. Warped Tour opens at 11:00 a.m. and volunteers must check in early. Each vendor booth that was packed away the day before must be located in an army of semi-trucks, unloaded, carried to the assigned space for the day, and re-constructed. All within two hours. As we worked, the representatives from Klean Kanteen provided a tutorial on what their company was all about. I learned that most plastic bottles, specifically the ones we drink from, contain harmful BPA, which is why their water bottles are made of stainless steel. The company prides itself on being a family that cares about our planet, demonstrating how reusable containers significantly reduce the mountain of plastic bottles in landfills across the country. The best thing I heard during our lesson was that Klean Kanteen donates 1% of their annual sales each year to nonprofit organizations dedicated to saving the environment.
July is hot in Burgettstown, Pennsylvania. The sun was brutal by noon and our booth was flooded with thirsty kids. My job was to facilitate the long line of guests waiting to fill their water bottles at our six faucets. No one pushed or shoved. I never heard complaints or disparaging remarks from anyone. As the temperatures soared, I met people of all ages who thanked me for the water. Others smiled at me, telling me how much they appreciated a place to hydrate for free. More than a few young concert attendees related stories of past outdoor festivals that left them sick and dehydrated because they could not afford the over-priced bottled water at some venues. I am not going to lie, it made me feel like I was doing something important.
A volunteer is a valuable representative of the company or cause they work for. It may just be one day, or a free ticket to Warped Tour, but the fact remains that if you are there, you are expected to present the company in the best light. Volunteers should do their homework and have a basic knowledge of what the organization hopes to achieve by being a part of the tour. It is disheartening to be met with indifference or disdain at some of the merch tents along the way. On my lunch break, I hurried to check out other vendors. I stopped at a popular clothing line tent where volunteer workers were busy signing people up for a meet & greet. As a longtime customer of this particular business, I was shocked to hear two girls behind the table refer to the kids in line as insects, speaking to them with patronizing cruelty when anyone ventured forward to ask a question. At a major record company booth, I grew tired of hearing the workers argue about whose turn it was to actually stand up and wait on customers that I left without the t-shirt I wanted to purchase. Volunteers who do not want to be there, should buy a ticket.
The perks to volunteering are personal and the effects from my volunteer experience have changed the way I live. I am more patient, because the kids in line showed such tolerance to the long wait for water. I check every plastic container for BPA, not wanting to suffer from the harmful effects it causes. I am careful of packaging, trying my best to utilize reusable containers in an effort to reduce the amount of waste my life produces. I left Warped Tour that day, sunburnt and satisfied that I had been part of something significant. The guests may have been grateful for the free water, but I was humbled at the chance to provide it for them.