An Interview with Lisa Barnes, of Summer of the Arts

It’s July, and summer is officially in full gear! Across the Midwest, that means picnics, road trips, and short nights. For Iowa locals, that means Iowa City Summer of the Arts. We couldn’t think of a better time to reach out to Lisa Barnes, the Executive Director, to hear more about her organization.


Since 2005, Summer of the Arts has created an incredible summer of entertainment, right in the heart of Iowa City, IA. Events include family-friendly festivals and weekly events like the Friday Night Concert Series and the outdoor Free Movie Series (bring lawn chairs!) As an Iowa City local myself, this organization has made summers come alive in a truly special way. 


How did Summer of the Arts get started originally? Is there a mission or vision that has guided you as the organization grows? 

Summer of the Arts was formed in the fall of 2005 as a way to bring together three long-running events (Iowa Arts Festival, Iowa City Jazz Festival and Friday Night Concert Series), and to share resources including fundraising, marketing, operations, etc. In 2005, there was a pilot program for the Free Movie Series, which became the 4th event added to the organization.


Our mission is to build community by bringing people together in the heart of Iowa City to experience, learn about, and enjoy free arts and cultural programs.


How have the events and festivals changed over the years?  

Over the years we have produced additional events (Downtown Saturday Night/Saturday Night Concert Series, Sand in the City, MusicIC, Celebrate the Season, Landlocked Film Festival), and in 2013 we started producing the Iowa Soul Festival, which is now the Soul & Blues Festival.


With the four core events, each year we review the event and discuss ways to change or improve the event. A lot of this comes down to layout and programming and what our community wants to see. We are constantly striving to bring changes and something new to each event, while maintaining the quality people have come to expect.


Do you know how many people usually attend these festivals? Which festivals seem to be the most popular? 

Since we don’t have tickets or primary entrances, it’s impossible for us to accurately estimate how many people attend each event, but based on what we’ve seen, we estimate a total of 100,000 people throughout the course of the summer. 

It’s hard to guess which event is the most popular as they all have their own niche – jazz fans LOVE the Jazz Festival, movie fans enjoy the Free Movie Series, general community members who enjoy live music love to get together and dance and experience the Friday Night Concert Series, families and all backgrounds enjoy the diversity of things to do at the Iowa Arts Festival and our diverse community embraces the passion of the Soul & Blues Festival.


How many volunteers do you usually have for an event and how are they involved? 

The only event we produce which doesn’t have volunteers is the Friday Night Concert Series. For the Free Movie Series, we typically have around 5 volunteers who are needed to help set up our inflatable screen. For the Arts, Jazz and Soul & Blues Festivals, we have anywhere from 25-250 volunteers who help in a variety of areas like setup/teardown, staffing hydration stations, bike parking, merchandise booth, beverage garden, Eco Stations, etc. We also have our year round volunteers who serve on our board of directors and the various festival committees.


Are there any festivals or performers that you’ve been particularly excited about this


For me personally, each festival brings something fun and different. I am very excited about Friday night at the Jazz Festival with The Nayo Jones Experience (vocalist) and Jane Bunnett and Maqueque (all female band with a Latin flair).


Thank you, Lisa! For more information about the Summer of the Arts, please visit .



Read More

An Interview with Beth Salinger of Fort2Base

At VolunteerLocal, we are always impressed by the outstanding endurance events and races put on by organizations across the country.


Today, we interviewed Beth Salinger – the Race Director and owner of Fort2Base. It was a pleasure
learning from Beth the true impact volunteers have on the annual Fort2Base race in Illinois.



How did Fort2Base originally get started? How old is the race now?

2019 will be the 9th annual run.


I grew up near Fort Sheridan, which is where the 10NM (Nautical Mile) starts, and I knew there was another base just north of it. I thought it would be fun to run between the two.


When we originally pitched the idea to the base, they asked us to finish on base to help them celebrate their 100th anniversary. The first Fort2Base run was on 9-11-2011, the 10th anniversary of 9-11. It was a fun and sobering day.


How long does it take to prepare for your event in August?

We prepare year-round for the event and start recruiting volunteers about 2 months prior.

In preparation, we work on the course, marketing, and speaking with the various cities we run through. And the fun part – designing participant giveaways!


We communicate with our volunteers and participants year-round, especially at Thanksgiving and New Year’s. We always want them to know we appreciate them and are thinking of them.


What are some of the roles your volunteers have within Fort2Base?

We use volunteers in every aspect of the event – from course marshals, helping with packet pick up, water stations, medical volunteers, and pacers. Volunteers also help throughout the year, to assist at expos and spreading the word!


Could you tell us a bit about your Event Ambassadors?

We have about 20 ambassadors who help us throughout the year. They help us get the word out about Fort2Base.


We do a lot with social media and look for ambassadors with a strong social presence. We also go to a lot of expos, so the ambassadors help us there as well. Some ambassadors are really involved in local running clubs, so they organize fun runs and pass along extra discounts and swag.

Anything we can do to encourage people to sign up. Generally once they run, they really enjoy the experience!


How would you describe the energy at your races?

It is amazing. On the final stretch, we have military volunteers cheering on the runners. Military personnel hand out our medals, and about 30% of our registrations are military. It is a very patriotic feel!


Final thoughts about the event and the volunteers that help make it happen?

Many of our volunteers are young sailors – they recently left home for the first time and are in school at Naval Station Great Lakes. To see their sense of pride, wearing their Navy gear and supporting other military personnel is really special. Our last two water stations are often all military, and our course marshals are all military.


A few years ago we had a gentleman walking the 10NM and was the last participant by far. The kids were cheering him on, but then as he passed them, they got in formation behind him to support him. By the time he crossed, both water stations and all the course marshals had filed in behind him and were chanting. When he finished, we found out he was a retired Navy Chief, which made it even more special – there was not a dry eye in the house.



Truly, volunteers can change the entire look and feel of your event!


Read More

An Interview with Kim Scott from Illinois Marathon

At the tail end of her 2019 event planning, we caught up with Kim Scott from Illinois Marathon to learn more about her role with this major event.

Illinois Marathon is an event loved by locals and visitors alike. Thousands of runners, volunteers, and fans gather each year to support and celebrate the race. This year, the marathon took place April 25-27, 2019


The triumph of this event was largely in thanks to Illinois Marathon’s very own Volunteer Coordinator, Kim Scott. In the midst of event planning, she took a moment to chat with us about the event history, her role, and the joy of working with Illinois Marathon volunteers.


What are Illinois Marathon’s origins? How did it originally start?

Kicking off in 2008, the Illinois Marathon is now about 11 years old. The marathon was originally founded to encourage health and wellness in central Illinois. Since then, the event has attracted participants from all corners of the country, as well as internationally. In the last 10 years, Illinois Marathon has certainly made an impact, with over 175,000 registrations and over $1.3 million donated to Illinois charities.


How did Kim get involved as the Volunteer Coordinator?

Kim was initially involved with the marathon as a runner. After enjoying the event so much, she sought opportunities for further involvement – as a volunteer! She jumped right in with a committee position, in charge of Packet Pickups. Shortly after, a Volunteer Coordinator position opened up. “It was a bit unexpected, but I had been interested in doing more at the time – so it was a great opportunity,” Kim recalled.

Kim is now enjoying her 5th year as Illinois Marathon’s Volunteer Coordinator. “It gets better every year,” she said.


What does Kim enjoy most about working with Illinois Marathon volunteers?

In the thick of event planning and coordination, Kim had a lot of praise to share for marathon volunteers. “I love their enthusiasm,” she said. “They always offer more, they’re always willing to do extra.” Much like her own story, she noted that volunteers often return every year. She commented, “Volunteers really have fun with it, and they tend to stay.”

There are many roles that volunteers play throughout the event – hydration, medical team, and course volunteers. From crowd control to medal hanging, they have their bases covered. Even local high school students get involved, jumping to action the day after the race to clean the course from start to finish.


Illinois Marathon’s Guest Legend? Do tell!

Each year, Illinois Marathon adds another level of excitement to the race by inviting a Guest Legend. This year, they invited U.S. Olympian and World Champion, Craig Virgin. Through special talks, speeches, and even radio co-hosting, Craig kept the crowd engaged and inspired throughout the event.


To wrap up our chat, I asked Kim if there was anything in particular that she was looking forward to as the event approached.

She explained how much planning is involved behind the scenes of every race. With that in mind, go-time is her favorite time: “When we get to the Expo, it means we’ve done everything we can do, and it’s time to shine”.


Although this year’s race is now behind us, be sure to set a calendar reminder to register for next year’s event, either as a runner or a volunteer! For more information, visit their website at .




Read More