Last year marked the 25th anniversary of Festival International de Louisiane. It was also marked a quarter-century that Acadiana Open Channel has been covering the event.
So as both Festival and AOC look at the 26th year of performance and coverage, the word is going out for volunteers to man the camera crews.
"Without our volunteers, we would not be able to do this," says Nancy Judice, marketing director at AOC Community Media. "With the amount of man-hours that it takes to record and go live from these performances, we would not be able to do without our incredible volunteers.
"We depend on them every year, definitely," she says.
As a rule, it takes at least 50 volunteers to cover the performances for live broadcasts or recording purposes on the main stage - Parc International - Thursday-Sunday - during Festival.
"We don't have a set number of positions that are available, it's done on a shift-work basis," says Judice. And to do that, AOC needs three camera people, a director, production assistants and cable-pullers per performance.
"So, people can sign up for one of those positions for as many shifts as they want," says Judice, which comes down to about two hours and includes pre-production and post-production meetings. "There's no set time that they have to be willing to give, or a minimum or maximum. It's just we ask that if you are going to volunteer to show up when you when you tell us you're going to show up."
However, volunteers must be current AOC members. Annual memberships range from $25 (for students) $35 (general population). Individuals can join AOC or renew their membership here. In addition, groups of four can join for $25 each and can do so at the upcoming training meetings.
"We're definitely looking for those quality volunteers that will step up to the plate and help us out," she says. "We're not just going to throw them out there without any help. We're going to have a couple of training opportunities for people who are beginners, because we do encourage beginners to take part in this as well."
For that matter, volunteers can be beginners to experts or anywhere in between. AOC will hold a mandatory volunteer training meeting on Thursday, April 12, 6:30 p.m. at AOC.
"At that training session you'll learn the few steps it will take you to how to us our cameras," says Judice. And that means how to focus, compose shots, and definitions of words the director uses. "So you don't feel like you've just been thrown out there. We want people to feel comfortable doing what they're volunteering to do."
Volunteers are also encouraged to attend a practice session on Friday, April 20, during Downtown Alive! at Parc International.
"We'll use Downtown Alive! as a training session to do the exact same thing we'll be doin for Festival," Judice says. "This kind of sets the stage for them."
Glenn Baudoin is an AOC veteran volunteer with at least 20 years of Festival coverage. He'll take a couple of shifts behind the camera these days, but he's also on hand throughout Festival to pitch in if needed by AOC.
But no matter where he is, Baudoin is also on hand for "For the fun of it," he says. "You get to meet a lot of different people and entertainers from different parts of the country and world."
There's something about following the performers with the camera that's nearly indescribable, says Baudoin, and he suggests people volunteer for that opportunity.
"You get the experience of being on stage about four feet from them," he says. "It's great. It's the best energy you can have. It's the best high you can have."
And not only that, a volunteer is helping to document international musical history.
"You're capturing it for years to come," he says. "It's fun."
Of course, there's the plus of being out of the crowd with an unobstructed view of the show.
“As a crew member, you literally will get one of the most coveted views for main-stage performances,” says AOC Executive Director Ed Bowie. “Anyone can say ‘I was there.’ Only a few can say, ‘I was on stage.’”
AOC’s two television channels (Cox Communications 15 and 16 and LUS Fiber’s 3 and 4) will air performances live from Festival, something AOC began last year.
"We'll be doing that same thing again this year, which is huge, because now we'll be able to bring Festival home to those who can't come out to Festival," says Judice. "Instead of them having to wait for months for us to edit the content, they get to see it immediately."
A schedule of coverage will be released a couple of days before Festival.
And for the first time, AOC will edit and air full performances tentatively scheduled for the last week of June and during prime time, "so that in one week you can basically relive Festival," says Judice. "Or see it if you haven't seen it."