Volunteers needed for the Brockport Arts Festival

By on November 19, 2018
Ducks are launched into the Canal for the start of the 2018 Duck Derby. Provided photo

Ducks are launched into the Canal for the start of the 2018 Duck Derby. Provided photo

The year was 1995.  A group of Brockport community and business people came together with the idea to create a community event to attract visitors to the Village of Brockport.  Ralph Parmelee is one of those folks who worked to form the Brockport Arts Festival (BAF), an annual event held in downtown Brockport that draws thousands of visitors to the area.

“A group of service club members had the idea to put on a community event and the proceeds of the event would be used to build playgrounds for children. That’s how the Brockport Arts Festival started,” Parmelee said.

Over the years, the festival took on a life of its own, bringing thousands of people to the Village of Brockport. As the festival grew, so did the need for a structured event committee. The area community organizations came together to form The Brockport Integrated Service Clubs Organization also known as BISCO. This group is made up of representatives from the Brockport Kiwanis, Lions, Rotary, Elks and Fire Department as well as community members who are interested in supporting BISCO’s mission. The purpose and mission is to fund and support projects that benefit children who reside in the western area of Monroe County. BISCO’s main fundraiser is the Brockport Arts Festival.

It’s important to note that the proceeds from the BAF are invested back into the community. Projects like the skate park at the Sweden Town Park; bleachers, a batting cage and part of safety fencing at Nietopski Field at Sweden Town Park; playground equipment at Corbett and Barry Street Parks; and an 8-passenger cycle, trailer and storage shed for Camp Abilities; support for the Brockport Toy Shelf and more.

Art Appleby joined BISCO in 2010 and organized the Duck Derby, one of the BAF’s biggest events. The Duck Derby is held as the festival’s culminating activity. Thousands of yellow plastic ducks are launched from the Main Street Lift Bridge. Prizes are awarded for the first and last 10 ducks that cross the finish line. Ducks are sold during the festival and also by the agency that benefits from the event proceeds. Last year’s prizes total over $7,000.

Over the years, Appleby’s involvement grew. He became festival chair in 2015 and president and secretary of BISCO in 2016.

Organizing such an event as the BAF is no easy task. It takes many people to share with the countless responsibilities of coordinating the festival. Tasks like vendor and entertainment selection, coordination and set up of space; volunteer assignments that include hospitality, wine tent, food booths and event assistance; main event set up, maintenance and tear down which includes refuse pick-up; promotion, advertising and publicity; safety and security; and the list goes on and on.

“It takes the work of about 250 people to make the Brockport Arts Festival successful.  Something as simple as overseeing the thousands of ducks from Duck Derby is a huge chore. The Boy Scouts remove all the number stickers, clean and bag the ducks for the next year,” Appleby said. “Over the years, we’ve had great support from all the BISCO organizations, the community, businesses and our vendors.”

Mark Gardner serves on the BISCO Committee and also as the entertainment coordinator for the BAF. He describes BISCO a valuable resource.

“BISCO is made up of a group of volunteer organizations that support the Brockport Arts Festival. All of these community organizations share similar missions. This festival raises a significant amount of money that directly benefits the community,” Gardner said.

British leader Winston Churchill once said, “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” This statement rings true for many who volunteer. Both Gardner and Appleby continue to give their time to BISCO and Brockport Arts Festival for many reasons.

“I’m retired now so I have more time.  The Brockport Festival is a terrific event, plus volunteering is fun, rewarding and a great opportunity to give back in a big way,” Gardner said.

Appleby echoes Gardner’s thoughts.

“I live here in Brockport and care about this community. BISCO is focused on community projects for children, it’s meaningful to me to give back and be involved with this organization,” Appleby said.

Parmelee agrees with both Gardner and Appleby.

“The Brockport Arts Festival is a great community event that brings thousands of people to the area. I enjoyed my time volunteering for the festival because it was so rewarding to be a part of a community event,” Parmelee said.

But like most organizations, BISCO and the BAF have a serious shortage of volunteers that can be attributed to many reasons.

“Many of the service organizations service members are getting older. Younger people may not have time to commit to volunteering. Many people have also changed the way that they donate with the evolution of online donation sites,” Gardner said.

Appleby noted that the committees have decreased in numbers, but that the need for help continues.

“Last year’s festival was our best yet. We had a small group of very talented people who were involved. We are recruiting people to assist with the 2019 Brockport Arts Festival. This upcoming year notes the 25th anniversary of the festival. The opportunities for volunteers are open. Someone can help as much as they have time for,” Appleby said.

Parmelee added, “When you are doing something good that will help others, that’s the best.”

Both organizations, BISCO and the BAF Festival, meet monthly. Membership is open to anyone who resides in the Brockport area. BISCO meets the first Tuesday of every month and the festival committee meets the third Tuesday of the month.  Both meet at the Brockport Exempts located at 248 West Avenue in Brockport. Volunteers are needed, much appreciated, and always welcomed. Anyone interested in giving back to the community and helping out at the BAF can contact brockportartsfest@gmail.com.

Festival goers fill Main Street during the 2018 Brockport Arts Festival. Provided photo

Festival goers fill Main Street during the 2018 Brockport Arts Festival. Provided photo

The Lawn Chair Ladies entertain during the 2018 Brockport Arts Festival. Provided photo

The Lawn Chair Ladies entertain during the 2018 Brockport Arts Festival. Provided photo