700 OTW Volunteers Dismantle Event Overnight

By: Landon Cassman Email
By: Landon Cassman Email

DOWNTOWN ROCKFORD (WIFR) -- It took a year to plan, a week to set up, and after four days of music, just seven hours to completely dismantle Illinois' largest street festival.

"We have a lot of fun when we're tearing down," said Sue Michaelis, who has been an On the Waterfront volunteer for 13 years. "Every one's smiling, every one's having fun. You know, it's the end of a great weekend."

Sue Michaelis is one of 700 "On the Waterfront" volunteers cleaning up 26 blocks of festival grounds. Everything must be torn down and stored into the Ingersoll building between 10:30 P.M. and 6 A.M.

"Rockford, Downtown at 3 A.M. is just kind of a different beast when there's hundreds of people sweeping up trash, and taking down giant stagings, and Ferris wheels and pizza trucks," said third year volunteer Jonathan Rush. "And all this assortment of stuff that is normally not all over our city. It's pretty intense."

That "intense" emotion brings back thousands of volunteers year after year. Some say they develop close ties during the hectic process.

"It's like your family," said Michaelis. "And I don't live here. I live in Kansas. I come back every year. And it's like coming back to see family every single year."

Volunteers said they felt a sense of accomplishment when everything is finally taken down.

"And everybody really, really, really wants to get it done, put it to bed, get some rest, and start planning for next year," said OTW organizer Mike Link."

Once all is put away, on the waterfront organizers already start booking talent for on the waterfront 2013.

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