WESTMONT – Each year, thousands of residents and out-of-towners descend upon the downtown for annual summer events such as the Taste of Westmont, Red, White and Bar-B-Q and the Fourth of July celebration.
For the most part, the activities go on without a hitch – attendees file smoothly in and out of gates, children are supervised while on carnival rides, and patrons purchase food and beverages at one of the many tents.
But it's the unpaid, and often unrecognized staff that make Westmont summer events possible.
"Simply put, these events, as large as they are, are not possible without volunteers," Village Communications Director Larry McIntyre said. "If we had to hire people to replace all of the volunteers, these events would not be feasible."
McIntyre is also founding member and the first president of the Westmont Special Events Corporation, a not-for-profit organization that was started to help assist the community in the successful development, promotion and execution of various special events.
In the 10 years since Westmont Special Events was founded, McIntyre said thousands of volunteers have donated countless hours, ensuring that village events run smoothly.
"We have a current listing of more than 1,000 people who volunteer with the WSEC," he said. "We have always been very lucky in terms of how many volunteers we have had. it has been consistently high."
Each Thursday during the summer, about 10 to 15 volunteers work from 3:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., doing everything from posting "no parking" signs in the afternoon, to escorting classic cars and working beverage tents.
Additionally, for larger festivals like the Taste of Westmont, typically more than 100 volunteers work more than 1,000 hours to help the show go on, Mayor Ron Gunter said.
One of those volunteers is Westmont resident Robin Gardner, the current vice president of Westmont Special Events Corporation and a member of the organization for six years.
Not only does she help set up the Taste of Westmont and weekly Westmont Cruisin' Nights, Gardner, a production secretary Blistex, uses five of her vacation days volunteer at the Taste.
She says that while it' an arduous process, the end result is always worth it.
"The volunteers work so hard to make it a bigger event every year – bringing more people into the village to try our restaurants because they are fabulous," she said. "I think it's a great way to use my vacation – I wouldn't do it if I didnt' love it. Plus you get to see all those smiling faces."
McIntyre added that the act of volunteering helps build a sense of community among residents.
"The importance of volunteering extends to creating a greater community among residents," McIntyre said. "When people get involved and become part of the process, they take a lot of pride in the village."
About Westmont Special Events Corporation
The mission of the Westmont Special Events Committee is to assist the community in the successful development, promotion and execution of various special events. The organization is made up of a 15-member unpaid board of directors, 12 committee members and two village liaisons.
"I'd like to thank all the volunteers who made [the Taste of Westmont] a successful event," Mayor Ron Gunter said. "More than 100 volunteers worked more than 1,000 hours – it would not have been possible without you."