Meet the Volunteers Who Clean Up the Governors Ball Garbage


Among the East Coast hippies and well-to-do bros attending Governors Ball this year are the young people who could not afford a ticket. Their solution? Picking up trash. That is volunteering. GovBall volunteers take on an array of activities (coordinating games, vendor assistance, watering stations…) and those who preferred to take part in a higher cause (or simply missed the deadline for other volunteer duties) joined the festival’s cleanup staff. This year #GovBallNYC partnered with Clean Vibes, dedicated to on-site management at outdoor events to promoting recycling, composting and proper waste disposal. Clean Vibes crew got down to details, picking up food plates, beer bottles, and, gag, even cigarette butts.

See also: Music Festivals Are Environmental Disasters

Taking part in this crucial task meant several things. First, volunteers committed to three five hour work shifts, one each day of the festival (or two eight hour shifts Monday and Tuesday after the festival), during which they were responsible for a specific section of the site. Neon yellow vest, blue rubber gloves and trash bags in hand, the crew walked around their section, picking up after concert-goers, changing out packed trash bags and encouraging people to recycle. Once their shift was over they were free to roam the festival and enjoy its bountiful harvest of music and food, reimbursed for the ticket they’d already purchased, and promised GovBall t-shirts and “a slammin’ good time.”

Is it worth it? The answer, for those we spoke to, was definitely yes.

“I found these glasses,” said Uziel Crescenzi, pointing to his pair of neon shades. He and friend Christopher Arotsky, both from the Bronx and currently attending college, were working the area by the main stage midday Saturday. Crescenzi is a veteran festival volunteer and suggested it as a way to enter GovBall. Arotsky inquired online and agreed to the tradeoff.

“Volunteering isn’t so bad,” said Arotsky. “I was still dancing and picking up trash.” The two looked most forward to seeing the Strokes and Jack White.

Erin Balas, a volunteer at her first festival and Environmental Science major at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, was specifically excited to work with Clean Vibes. They’re doing a good job minimizing waste, she felt, and was surprised to find concert goers eager to pitch in the cleaning efforts, most recycling and some going as far as thanking her for doing the work (a theme among volunteers).

“I haven’t seen anyone just throwing things straight on the ground,” Balas said. “No one wants to sit in dirty grass.” She was excited to see the Strokes and Vampire Weekend.

Clarissa Sorenson and Eugénie Thompson, both New Yorkers and a year out of Stuyvesant High School, felt attending the festival as volunteers actually enhanced their experience. There’s something to be said for having a purpose during a 12 hour period in a grassy field, they said, as opposed to just roaming it. And there’s something to be said for being part of the festival as opposed to just attending it.

“Suddenly I feel like I’m supposed to help out everyone around me,” said Thompson. “Like I saw this girl crying and wanted to be like, ‘Hey man, what’s up?'”

“I would encourage anyone who can afford it to buy a ticket,” she added, “and anyone who can’t afford it to volunteer. You know what, even if you can afford it, you should volunteer.”

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