I was psyched for Escape to New York, a three-day festival on Long Island, put on by Winkel and Balktick and the UK’s Secret Garden … until I saw the price. The $150 ticket is more than I have for a weekend, and even a conglomeration of some of our finest artists and party-makers (like Shanghai Mermaid, Improv Everywhere and Hank and Cupcakes) couldn’t convince me to pay.
Enter WorkExchangeTeam. They arrange volunteers for a bunch of festivals — like Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza and Dave Matthews’ Band Caravan on Governers Island later this month. You fill out the application and commit to 15-18 hours’ work. They give you a ticket and free camping. Oh, and a T-shirt (beats an old Applebee’s work shirt).
The downside: there’s an application fee ($10-30, $10 for Escape2NY) and you have to put down a deposit (price of ticket + camping + $25-75 cancellation fee, so $175 for Escape2NY). Apparently, they want insurance against people wandering off for some reason. If you complete your shifts, the deposit is returned, but your account is charged when your application is processed.
The upside: they schedule around the acts you don’t want to miss, you might get to work the ‘VIP’ section, people are supremely grateful for directions to the bathroom, and did I mention free admission to the festival?
Filling out an application isn’t a guarantee that you’ll get to volunteer, though. There are limits on how many each events needs. They tell you three weeks beforehand if you’re “in” (Escape2NY is still taking names). But that means, for quickly-sold-out festivals, you may gamble more than the application fee.
Once you’re on the list, you’ll be assigned times to stay sober so you can help people park, clean, sell stuff, fill cups, or scoop food. I opted to head up early and stay late to help with set up and break down, to minimize responsibilities mid-fest.
They’re currently taking applications for the DMB Caravan on Governer’s Island later this month. They’ll even bug you with a newsletter if you want, so you can spend all year trading 15 hours of relative crap-itude for a weekend of fun.