Klondike Days: Volunteer Rookie

There are few volunteer gigs I like better than selling 50/50s in our big arena. Last year, I signed up to be a volunteer for the Northlands crew so I could sell 50/50s for the Canadian Finals Rodeo each November. As part of the crew, I get notices for volunteer opportunities throughout the year, which unfortunately due to timing and other commitments I could never participate in.

But, I figured I ought to make a special effort for K-Days in July - Edmonton's annual fair and exhibition, and Northlands biggest event. There were a number of opportunities to choose from, but I chose 3 shifts of Gate Welcome Ambassador, one at each of the 3 gates, although on one of my shifts either I got confused or the person who sent me out got confused and I ended up at the wrong gate but oh well, no harm no foul.

As for all big events, I had to attend an orientation night. I got my updated volunteer ID, and a free bus ticket in case I couldn't ride my bike. It was very nice of them to offer free bus tickets and free parking, but no one mentioned bike parking the entire evening. I also got my volunteer uniform which consisted of a blue polo shirt, a grey sort of rain jacket and a black baseball cap. There were snacks and speeches from the VIPS, and then specific speeches for the role I selected. I also received a handbook. So I'd say I was mostly prepared for my shifts. Mostly, but still was very apprehensive on the first day.

There was some back and forth on social media about bike parking, as I didn't find it very clear on the website (it was buried in the FAQS, and not on the transportation page that I saw at the time) and everyone I contacted was super s-l-o-w to get back to me. It would be nice if they offered a secure bike corral, but alas, nothing was available for bikes besides the usual few racks outside the gates. And these did fill up over the course of the day so really, Northlands ought to offer more and encourage cycling as a transportation option. It's a no brainer to include sustainable transportation opportunities for big events. Sometimes I hate the massive car culture of this city. (Ok, all the time...)

Bike parking. Available but certainly not glamourous.


This rack filled up over the course of the day, so that's promising.


So on my first shift I arrived and parked my bike at the gate I was stationed at. I signed in at the volunteer centre in the middle of the grounds, got and filled up a reusable water bottle, pocketed my free $10 in food vouchers (sadly not midway food, just building cafeteria but super thankful for this nice perk!), and headed out to my gate. This was the first change from the training - at the training we were told to wait in the volunteer centre for our supervisor, but no one showed up and it turned out we were supposed to just go to the gate. Off I went. I found a supervisor there, got an apron off a person going off shift, and started "welcoming". My job was to hand out day sheets with the schedule and map on it, and Lost Child stickers. As I was stationed near a ticket line, I also was crowd control, which shouldn't have happened as they had their own volunteers in ticketing, but there was a line and it was chaos so someone had to do something.

Then it got a little tense as one supervisor got a bit cranky with me for standing where I was, even though my supervisor when I started told me to be there. It turned out the supervisor schedule got screwed up and there were two supervisors at the same place giving different orders. Annoying. So I was already cranky, when the shift change happened for me to go home and the supervisor said I had to stay even though everyone else got swapped out.

In the end, my first day was...mediocre. I like the job of welcoming people, and it was busy so that was nice, but all this bossy supervisor drama left a bad taste in my mouth and honestly, I didn't want to go back.

But go back I did. The second shift I was at a different gate so I just went out and took someone off. The people I worked with on all shifts were super nice - which is always the best part of volunteering - so it was pleasant making small talk with them during quiet times. We worked quite well together this shift I'd say! Turns out this was the shift I was actually at the wrong gate! But the (same as yesterday) supervisor didn't show up until 5 minutes to hometime (3hrs later) so no obviously one noticed/cared. No drama this time because of the absent supervisor and I was feeling better about the whole experience.

Third shift was the same place as the second, and as it was a weeknight, it was slower, plus it rained a bit. But the people were still lovely so it's all good. I actually wished I had more time to volunteer for more shifts, but it was a busy week.

All in all, I would volunteer for KDays again. I would pick my shift time/place more carefully, but I would probably be a gate ambassador again. I don't mind being out in the elements, it had it's busy moments, and people were, for the most part, very friendly. I could've done without the supervisor drama but instead of complaining I'll climb the ladder of seniority and move my way into that position and then do a super awesome job!

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