Producing and managing a weekly music series for 12 weeks would be a challenge for any organization. That makes the success of Summertime by George! all the more impressive.
The summer events are created and managed with a volunteer workforce, Rotarians, most of whom are not experts in coordinating or staging events.
This year marks the 10th season of the concert series. By Rotary’s estimate, we will break the one million mark in total attendance.
This year marks the 10th season of the concert series. By Rotary’s estimate, they will break the one million mark in total attendance, said Jim Dwyer, current head trustee for the club’s St. Cloud Rotary Foundation and former club president.
Behind the scenes, Rotarians work all year to produce the concerts. “What people don’t see is that this gets worked on for months in advance,” Dwyer said. That includes scheduling bands, lining up vendors, obtaining insurance, creating a marketing plan, finding sponsors, and coordinating with St. Cloud’s park and police departments.
But the coordination of any single night of Summertime by George! is also formidable. Volunteers are on-site from the early afternoon the day of an event, to about 9:30 p.m., Dwyer said.
Dozens Help Each Week
It takes about 80 people each week of the event and none of the Rotarians are paid. And because of the nature of the club, it may well be your bank president collecting that bag of garbage, or the owner of a large business.
A Rotarian serves as volunteer coordinator, sending out a sign-up sheet to members in spring. Dwyer said the club hopes Rotarians commit to at least two of the 12 nights — though many volunteer more often than that.
Volunteers do everything from spray painting numbers on grass indicating where vendors should set up to getting bands food and drinks, producing plenty of garbage liners and directing parking. In the afternoon they set up, putting out extra tables and garbage cans, and creating an area for Eastman Tavern, the beer garden.
During the event, members sell popcorn, bottles of soda and water, and raffle tickets. Rotaract members, another Rotary-like club aimed at young professionals, serves beer and checks IDs at Eastman Tavern. Rotarians oversee the 60-70 vendors and other activities.
Other Rotarians staff the lost and found, and coordinate with law enforcement on security. Typically, the major challenge is the weather. On hot and humid days, it’s watching for signs of heat exhaustion and dehydration. Other times, it’s the agonizing process of deciding to cancel or end the event early for rain and lightning.
At the end of the night, the process reverses. Flags are taken down, and garbage and recycling bags are collected. Materials are locked up for the next week.
The club also gets requests from other organizations on how they can help with the event. For example, in the past church members helped to clean up the park after the music finishes, and St. Cloud Technical High School football players and other athletes set up each week’s event.
Rotarians have noticed that attendees really do see Summertime by George! as a community event, so they take on some responsibility including clean up and collecting garbage.
“There’s very little garbage to pick up,” Dwyer said. “We think that indicates the community likes what we’re doing and they feel like they have ownership in it.”