Celebrating nearly 20 years of volunteering with Festival of the Arts!
By Rachel Kornoelje
Italian sausage loaded with sautéed onions and peppers, souvlaki, tamales with jalapeños and cheese… these are just some of the mouthwatering foods that are available at Festival of the Arts.
And Tim Postema, who is part of the food booth committee, gets to taste test and explore the wide array of foods that Festival offers even before it begins!
Tim began volunteering in 2001 when he worked at a food booth at Festival for an organization that he was involved with. In 2003, he took over responsibility for that food booth, and in 2009 was asked to join Festival as part of the food booth committee. In 2012, Tim took over responsibility for the committee, and in 2014, he co-chaired Festival of the Arts. He learned that there is always an opportunity to increase the level of involvement when donating time to an organization.
2018 will be Tim’s eighteenth consecutive year volunteering at Festival of the Arts. Being part of the food booth committee, he works closely with the Kent County Health Department and the Grand Rapids Fire Department, and describes the experience as educational. Over the years, he has learned a lot about the respective regulations and the non-profit organizations that sponsor the food booths. Tim explains that running the food booths can be a lot of work, but is satisfying when the weekend of Festival arrives and people are enjoying the food that the booths provide.
So what goes into the process of choosing what food will be served at Festival?
Tim explains that the organization sponsoring the food booth has to be granted a 401(c)3 non-profit status and must be headquartered in Kent County or one of the seven surrounding counties. Festival is always looking for new food items that are different than what is already offered, and prefers authentic ethnic food, but also makes sure to have a variety of different foods available.
In order to provide an array of delicious food at festival, much of the preparation occurs several months ahead of time.
Applications for food booths are collected and evaluated, and new food booths and new food offerings by existing organizations, are taste tested in February. At this event they also evaluate the sensory presentation of the proposed food items. Both the Festival Food Booth and Trucks Committees, and the Kent County Health Department, evaluate the logistics of what is being proposed for the preparation, holding, and distribution of the food items. The evaluation also includes how well the organization meets the regulations, as well as work within the constraints of Festival, it being an outdoor event. All of these factor into the final selection of organizations to participate in the Festival.
Then, training and coordination meetings are conducted with the sponsoring organizations in the months leading up to the event. Setup occurs Thursday evening before Festival starts and is torn down Sunday after Festival ends. Tim mentions that during Festival is the most relaxing time for the food booth committee as they get to take time to enjoy the performances, the art, and of course, the food.
Tim cherishes the moments when he sees people—especially children, eating, dancing, painting, and enjoying the array of activities that Festival offers. This makes all the hard work that goes into the food booths at Festival of the Arts worth it.