Nova Scotia

Volunteers boost Tall Ships Festival

As the tall ships sail into Halifax harbour, an army of volunteers are on hand to make sure the event goes off without a hitch.
More than 450 people have volunteered to work at the Tall Ships Festival. (CBC)

As the tall ships sail into Halifax harbour, an army of volunteers are on hand to make sure the event goes off without a hitch. More than 450 people have signed up to do everything from deliver water bottles to crew members to direct tourists.

Laurie Doucette has worked at every tall ship event, except 2007. She said many people don't know how much work goes into pulling off an event of this size.

"Volunteer recruitment started months ago," she said. "A lot of the stuff is not seen... but that's what makes the event. We make it all run, but we don't have to be seen."

Laurie Doucette says many people do realize what goes on behind the scenes. (CBC)

This year, Doucette is spending her days as a team leader. She co-ordinates volunteers and makes sure they know where they need to be.

Doucette said she has a real love of the tall ships, bringing her back every year.

But her favourite moment stems from the first year. She was blown away by the size of a Russian vessel that arrived in the harbour.

"Just trying to communicate with the Russian crew, as best as we could, was probably the most fun we've ever had," she said.

The eclectic crew members are also a draw to Selma Vineberg, a retired teacher, who has volunteered for the last three festivals.

"It's a great experience, great opportunity to meet people and showcase the province of Nova Scotia and the city," Vineberg said. She's one of dozens of retirees who offer up their time.

"The volunteers from year to year, in some cases, they get the same people who volunteer for the event because they're tall ship enthusiasts."

Selma Vineberg says the best part is meeting crew members. (CBC)

Vineberg has taken on many different roles at the festival. This year, she's in the media centre, assisting reporters and photographers who come from across the country.

She says each festival brings curiosity and excitement about the different boats that sail into the harbour.

"The one that was in the movie, I think it was The Bounty, I met the Captain in 2009, and some of the crew. They were great," she said. "The crew from all the ships are wonderful."

Busy Gig

There are also many first time volunteers who were surprised, but happy, to take on the busy jobs.

"I have been down to the tall ships a few times so I thought well, it would be cool to be on the inside," said Erin Christian. She is working fulltime at the festival this weekend, assisting the ambassadors and delivering supplies.

"It's surprising the amount of work that has to go into something like this."

But Christian was enjoying the perks that come from signing up for the gig.

"Later, I'm doing something with the crew. It'll be a chance to meet the people from the actual ships, that's something that you don't get to do usually as a person at the festival, so I'm enjoying that part."

In the heat, Jeronimo Barrett was enjoying a few quiet moments in a tent before receiving his next task.

"I run food to people, water, I run errands for people," he said, describing his job as a runner.

Barrett has never volunteered before, but his brother suggested they both sign up this year.

"The best part is we get on the ships free."

The Tall Ships Festival runs until July 23 in Halifax, before moving on to Lunenburg, Port Hawkesbury, Shelburne, Pictou and Pugwash.