In September 1996, KVMR broadcaster and volunteer Jenny Michael found herself in a tiny merchandise booth at the very first KVMR Celtic Festival. She and then-festival producer Karen Carchidi did the best they could as a crowd double or maybe even triple the Nevada City radio station's expectations showed up....and wanted to buy stuff.
Their cigar box was overflowing with money, some of it falling onto the booth's floor, so many sales were being made.
"It was chaos," recalls Michael. "We were operating by the seat of our pants."
Now that might have daunted many volunteers.
Not our Jenny. Nope, no way.
This Saturday and Sunday (Sept 30-Oct. 1), once again, she'll be running the merch booth, to the right of the stage near KVMR 89.5 FM's live broadcast booth, as she has done every festival for the 20 years after since that complicated rookie outing.
You see, there's that keeping track of all the group CDs, individual group member CDs, teeshirts, DVDs and other swag artists want to sell. And then Jenny coordinates artists coming to the booth and signing the sold merch. And then figuring out each group's individual take.
Um, it's not a cakewalk, but she's been making it easier and easier...
21ST CENTURY BOOTH
"We've brought it into the 21st century, using spreadsheets, can you believe cash registers, credit cards — it's become a well-oiled operation," reports Jenny with that infectious smile of hers.
And that beats having a cash box for each act, which they tried for several years, but when they had 14 of 'em?
"I remember Linda Hayworth, wife of Pete Hayworth of the band Molly's Revenge, comin' up and sayin', 'Oh, hon, how can I help you?'"
Michael credits Hayworth, former KVMR events coordinator Amanda Rodgers, and recent volunteers Scott and Jolane Hickman with helping her bring the booth up to date, as it were.
And in the early years her "amazing right hand gal" was Kathy Hemple (now Dotson).
Then there are those vivid memories, like a couple years ago, when a torrent of rain sent many people leaving for home, and then suddenly...
"There he was, we had (local Celtic world class fiddler) Alasdair Fraser performing a personal jam with some friends right in the middle of our booth," according to Jenny. "Now that's the incredible magic we always talk about when we talk about this Festival."
The funny thing was Fraser wasn't even on the bill that year, he'd come as a spectator out of his love for the Festival. But...he had his fiddle, it was pouring rain, and wet people needed to smile...
"Maybe that's why I can't imagine myself ever not being involved with the Festival," Michael hypothesizes. "It'd be sort of like not being involved with KVMR."
We'll get to that in a moment, but then you need to know Jenny spends at least half the year before the Celtic Festival garnering volunteers, contacting bands and organizing the booth. No, not full time, heck, she's already working fulltime at The Sierra Fund.
Plus serving on a rather important festival committee.
HELPS CHOOSE ARTISTS
In fact, Celtic Festival Producer John Taber gushes about Jenny's service on the Festival's artist selection committee with volunteer broadcasters Annie Hestbeck and Laurie DesJardin, plus Taber and community member Izzy Martin.
Oh, and Jenny, along with Festival co-founder Hestbeck, may be the only volunteers that have been there all 21 years.
"Jenny graciously hosts us at her house, around her dining room table with a bottle of wine or so...it's wonderful," explains Taber. "She simply creates an atmosphere that makes our artist selection meetings a delight."
"I simply don't know if we could do the Festival without her," admits Taber. "Jenny does an absolutely fine job, and she's the part and parcel of the artist merchandise tent."
Service to KVMR is simply part of her life, according to Jenny.
Like recently being elected for a second time by her broadcaster community to the station Program Committee, which evaluates broadcasters and shows while reviewing the station schedule and making recommendations to the program director and station manager.
"KVMR has been the heart center of my life here," the Los Angeles area transplant says. "It's not just a radio station, it's my extended family. And I've been blessed with the opportunity to share my love and passion as a broadcaster with my son."
That'd be Jake, now 28, who, beginning at the age of 9, shared his love for the Beatles on his mom's biweekly radio show over a decade of those years.
And his proud mom's show would be the Wednesday Music Magazine (4 p.m. to 6 p.m., alternate Wednesdays), where Jenny has held forth playing an eclectic style of pop, rock, folk and locals for the past 23 years herself. After some post-festival time-off, she'll be back on air October 18.
"KVMR is simply a huge part of who I am, and encompasses a large part of my heart and soul," explains Jenny. "It's just so much a part of who I am. For me, it's truly remarkable and an honor to still be a part of it."
That's what the voice of a dedicated 21-year Celtic volunteer, a 23-year veteran Music Magazine host and 25-year, er, quarter century broadcaster sounds like.
Maybe stop by the KVMR Celtic Festival Merch Booth this weekend and meet her. You'll see -- and hear -- what we mean.
Especially that smile.
Once again, that Celtic Festival gets its KVMR take this weekend, with live remote broadcasts planned for both Friday and Saturday.
Saturday goes from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Sunday coverage starts at 10:30 a.m. with broadcaster Mikail Graham wandering into the crowd with a wireless microphone and Connie Coale co-hosting coverage of The Last Pint, a festival-ending jam session with at least eight of the Festival's leading musicians that begins at 6:45 p.m. and may go until 8:30 p.m.