Anne Hung, 15, dances to Les Sylphide while competing in the classical ballet solo en-point division of the 67th annual Chilliwack Lions Club Music and Dance Festival at the Chilliwack Cultural Centre in 2014. (Jenna Hauck/ Progress File)

Chilliwack Lions Club needs volunteers for Music and Dance Festival

‘Without this kind of help, the future of the festival is unknown,’ says organizer

Chilliwack Lions Club Music and Dance Festival is in dire need of volunteers.

But not just volunteers who can help out a morning here or an afternoon there. The committee is looking for head volunteers (they call them co-ordinators) to work long, full-day shifts – mainly for its dance portion, but also piano and strings – and to keep the festival running smoothly.

“I trust them to run the venues during the sessions,” says Laurie Hirschman with the Chilliwack Lions Club Music and Dance Festival committee. “They are the on-site volunteers.”

They have lost a lot of their co-ordinators over the last two years, some of them very suddenly including a major volunteer who stepped down a month ago. Some cannot continue to help out due to health issues, personal issues, or they can’t handle the demands because of their age.

The ideal person would be someone who’s very coordinated and likes to work with kids, says Hirschman. Someone who’s retired or semi-retired (such as school teachers or office managers) would make a great co-ordinator. Or, someone who’s on vacation, has organizational skills, is able to function quickly, and has a keen interest in music or dance.

Finding a dance co-ordinator is Hirschman’s No. 1 priority.

“The dance is really my big concern,” she says.

Dance makes up 70 per cent of all the entries for the annual festival. Everything from classic ballet to jazz to street dance is included.

If one person were to take on the volunteer role of dance co-ordinator, it would be 20-22 straight days of nine- to 14-hour shifts each day.

Hirschman is well aware that’s a heck of a lot of work. Splitting the dance portion among at least three co-ordinators is her ideal solution: one for ballet/modern dance (approximately seven days), one for jazz (eight days), and one for stage, tap, street, etc. (six days).

“Sometimes the person who’s the co-ordinator is just sitting around, if things are going well, watching the kids dance and checking on the people who are helping them backstage,” says Hirschman. “But sometimes a little kid’s music doesn’t work, and all the tears start to pour because they can’t dance, so [the co-ordinator] has to be able to calm the child down, and go talk to the tech.”

She reached out to the dance studios in Chilliwack and Abbotsford with no success.

“It could be that the right person is out there, but they’re just not hearing about it.”

The Chilliwack Lions Club Music and Dance Festival is also in need of a piano co-ordinator (four to five days), and a strings co-ordinator (two to three days).

They have never had this dilemma before.

Although the festival is definitely going ahead for 2018, depending on how many co-ordinators and volunteers they can find, the dance portion of the festival may not continue in 2019.

“And that’s not our wish,” says Hirschman. “Without this kind of help, the future of the festival is unknown, and that’s not something the committee would like to see.”

The Chilliwack Lions Club Music and Dance Festival, which runs four to five weeks throughout February and into March each year, will be entering its 71st year in 2018. Hirschman says so far “it’s been healthy” and she wants it to continue.

They also have a need for adult volunteers to help the co-ordinators throughout the festival. The co-ordinators receive a $50/day honorarium to help cover gas and food expenses, but other volunteers do not.

The festival began as a three-day event in 1948. It now brings in an average of 1,700 music and dance entries each year and it gives kids aged four to 20 a chance to compete regionally. Some of those who win their discipline go on to compete at the provincial and/or national level.

“The dance keeps the music afloat, it keeps the interest in the arts going. We are developing our audience of the future, and our volunteers of the future,” says Hirschman.

Anyone interested in volunteering as a co-ordinator, or for more info, can contact Laurie Hirschman at or 604-858-3147.



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