As I write this on Monday, August 24th, I’m still vertical. “So what’s the big deal,” you may be wondering. The deal is that I’ve survived the coordination of another successful Babas & Borshch Ukrainian Festival. And while I always try to learn from the failures and successes of others, the lesson I’m still learning is that it is humanly impossible to anticipate or prevent something from going wrong.
The best we can hope for is that the ?something? is small. A scraped knee versus a broken neck. Mid-twenty on the thermometer versus a torrential downpour. A volunteer not showing up for duty versus everybody starting to screen my calls.
But like most things in life, there is no clear black and white demarcation between success and failure, only shades of grey scattered on a continuum. This year, having all the food concession operators show up was a win. However, we still didn’t have enough capacity, with three vendors, to keep the lines of hungry visitors served quickly and efficiently. This year, none of our signs were stolen. However, that may be because a volunteer took them down Saturday night and rehung them Sunday morning. This year, we had new people step up as volunteers. However, I could have done a better job of scheduling them. After three years, we are seeing patterns that should guide that process next year.
So, despite the howevers, there are many successes to celebrate. It always boils down to the people?those who shock and awe us with their capacity to step up and work tirelessly precisely when that help is most needed, those who understand that none of us are indispensable, that this is no place for ego, and that the success and growth of the festival is what matters.
It’s truly inspirational to see people sing, dance, paint, take photographs, and do other creative pursuits strictly out of passion and commitment to a cause. I loved the kolomyika (a sort of dance in the round) the Ukrainian Shumka Dancers did in street clothes and bare feet a few hours after their contracted performance. They welcomed and involved two young kids in the crowd who clearly aspire to dance professionally someday. Talk about making dreams come true.
It was wonderful to see people of all ages, from babas and didos to toddlers and teens finding something to enthrall them. It was great to learn some people have attended each and every year. It was gratifying that others appreciated the ?over and above? efforts I make to answer emails and calls promptly or answer the same questions a million times or help walk seniors through the quagmire of email transfers and PayPal purchases.
But, because of the way I’m wired, I need to force myself to see the wins rather than just ways to keep improving the festival experience. Now, if you don’t mind, I’d like to lie down. Because tomorrow is another day, from where I sit.
Hazel Anaka’s first novel is Lucky Dog. Visit her website for more information or follow her on Twitter @anakawrites.