Name: Karen Hester
1. Where are you from and what brought you to Brooklyn?
I'm from Aotearoa/New Zealand and live in Manhattan, but my favorite people and dogs live in Brooklyn. When you grow up on the edge of the world where most touring acts don't visit, it's good to live in a cultural center for a while.
2. How did you find out about the BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn! Festival?
I love Prospect Park and wondered what the squirrel-disturbing racket was. I'm often in the park frolicking off-leash with dogs in the morning, watching birds and chipmunks, peering over the Quaker cemetery fence, getting to know North American trees, and pretending I'm in the wilderness. It's a wonderful place for concerts—music plus fireflies.
3. How long have you been volunteering with the BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn! Festival?
I have at least eight different volunteer t-shirts—that's how volunteers mark the passage of time. Before that I was an attendee who often arrived late and peered through the fence. I spent my last Sonic Youth show standing outside in the barbecue area and jumping in the dirt with other late-arriving fans.
4. What inspired you to volunteer with us?
I loved attending shows but would get antsy and bored before the music began. "Why don't you volunteer?" a friend asked. "Oh no, I'd never enjoy that." Eight years later...it's the volunteer team that keeps me coming back. There are life-long Brooklynites, new Americans, holidaying Europeans, ushering-addicts, spelunkers, students, and musicians. We're all batty about music.
5. As a volunteer, what are some of the tasks that you do?
Setting up and taking down the cursed chairs, answering questions (What time does the headliner come on? Where are the bathrooms? What is the meaning of life?), helping with queues, checking wrist-bands, handing out programs, and much more!
6. What has been your favorite experience volunteering here and why?
Unexpected moments, such as the hawk that perched at the top of the stage and surveyed the crowd who were taking photos, or the spontaneous hora where the dancers lifted up a drinks-seller and danced around her. Standing barefoot on dumped beer ice is pleasant at the end of a humid night.
The audience gives each night a different character, as well as the type of music. I particularly enjoy shows with kids playing in the grass and people dancing. And the grass is real—take that, other festivals!
7. What's the favorite show you have attended/worked here and why?
It was magical when lightning decorated the sky behind the stage during Sigur Ros. Good thing the storm stayed in the distance. Taylor Mac covering Sleater-Kinney made me so happy. One of the audience members Taylor brought onstage was a dignified and mature volunteer [Stan] who then said something so scandalous that Taylor got the giggles.
8. Who would you like to see perform here in the future?
It's the artists I don't yet know who are often the most fun, thank you BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn! Festival programmers. Desert blues works surprisingly well in a humid park. I love it when local school groups join the acts on stage.
9. What do you like to do when you are not volunteering at the Bandshell?
I'm a librarian and dog walker, and volunteer at lots of film festivals. And drink lots of tea.
10. What show are/were you most excited for this summer?
I'm always excited for the movie with live music, and the dance performances. The Festival is how I discover dance companies, since that world is a bit overwhelming to an outsider.
11. What's next for you this fall?
Um, I'm moving back to New Zealand. I refuse to say it's forever, but I miss my family. It has been over 10 years! And I can't see any sheep from my NYC window.
Thank you so much for your help over the years, Karen! We wish you good luck with your move back to New Zealand and hope you’ll make it back to visit the Bandshell in the future!
Interested in becoming a volunteer? Sign up here!