Volunteers make Maha rock

Stinson Park in Omaha will play host to the 8th annual Maha Music Festival on Aug. 20. In order to pull off what coordinators believe will be the biggest Maha festival yet, they rely on one of their most important assets: their volunteers.Maha_Volunteers,_by_year_Number_of_Volunteers_chartbuilder

“It wouldn’t be possible without all the volunteers,” said Margarita Lepe, an in-training volunteer coordinator for this year’s festival. “I hope to help them realize how much they mean to me and to all the people that volunteer their time throughout the year to put on the festival.”

It wasn’t always a sure bet that the volunteers would show up; especially after a last-minute venue change in 2011.

The festival, originally taking place at the Lewis and Clark Landing in downtown Omaha, was completely submerged in water due to flooding by the nearby Missouri River. With a ‘show must go on’ mentality, Stinson Park in Aksarban Village became the new last-minute venue.

Over 300 registered volunteers showed up to help. Countless others pitched in, too.

“I started out volunteering for 4 hours each year,” Lepe said, “and I always felt this huge sense of accomplishment after my shift because I knew that my one little job was part of something much bigger. I really hope that all the volunteers feel that way after their shifts.”

Prior to Lepe taking her new position, she reported to the person who can be credited with pulling off 2011 in her first year as a volunteer coordinator: Mary Dworak. Since that first year, she signed up and kept track of over 200 volunteers every year she was in charge.

“My time with Maha all started with the music and that’s why I did it,” said Dworak, who was the volunteer coordinator from 2011-2015 and the person responsible for training Lepe.

“Through the years, it’s become about the community and how Maha connects so many diverse people through it,” Dworak said.

For at least four hours of their time, volunteers receive a free ticket into the festival and a t-shirt. However, these tokens of appreciation never show how much Dworak and Lepe appreciate those who offer their time.

“That’s why I wanted to do volunteer orientations,” Lepe said, referring to the new pre-festival training sessions she has planned for this year.

“I want everyone to know how much they mean to the festival.”

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