UNA Interns, Volunteers Help Bring Sounds of Blues, Jazz to Life at 2013 W.C. Handy Music Festival
Jul. 25, 2013
By Amanda Abernathy, Student Writer
FLORENCE, Ala. – Musicians tune up instruments, visitors roll into town and restaurants all prepare for packed houses during the W.C. Handy Music Festival, an event anticipated every late July in the Shoals.
This year celebrates the 32nd annual festival, sponsored by the Music Preservation Society (MPS). The 2013 festivities officially began last Friday and continue through Sunday, July 28. Crowds have been hearing the sound of the blues, jazz and other forms of music in town all through the week, but festival preparations have been underway for several months.
Before each festival, MPS, the board of directors and the Handy festival committee – along with the many community volunteers and student interns – spend days, nights and countless hours organizing the event and its 200-plus activities. Student interns have experienced firsthand what community involvement and planning a festival are all about.
Over the years, MPS has welcomed University of North Alabama interns from a wide variety of programs, including event management, creative writing, commercial music, entertainment industry, journalism, marketing and public relations, according to MPS Executive Director Nancy Gonce.
A few past interns, who have since graduated and gained professional careers of their own, still volunteer their time to the festival.
UNA alumnus Danielle Palasak began working as a public-relations intern with MPS and the Handy festival seven years ago. She has made many friendships and professional connections through the festival, and some have led her to other opportunities in the community.
“I’ve been very happy with the experience that working with the festival has given me,” Palasak said. “I’ve gained valuable professional experience in various career fields.
“I have learned how the festival works from the inside out – everything from event planning to accounting,” she added. “Several years later, I can say I have done it all.”
UNA senior Stan Collins, an Entertainment Industry major, got involved with the festival this year in order to fulfill an internship graduation requirement.
“I didn’t really know what to expect coming in,” Collins said, “but I have already learned a great deal and have had fun doing it.”
Collins said he has met countless people through the festival.
“You never know who will walk into the office,” he said, “and I thoroughly enjoy the stories people have about the music scene in the area.”
Collins will graduate in December and hopes to work with the festival again next year.
Kathy Lee McClelland, senior administrative assistant for the UNA Office of Institutional Research, Planning and Assessment, began assisting with concessions and administration with MPS seven years ago. She was then asked to serve as treasurer with MPS, a position she has held the past six years.
McClelland believes everyone should volunteer for some community service. She chose to volunteer her time for this community service, which serves as a link back to her previous 25-year career in the music industry.
Volunteers believe a lot people can learn about their community by getting involved and becoming linked in to an event such as the W.C. Handy Music Festival. Palasak said she appreciates working with an organization that gives back to the community.
“I have come to care greatly about the festival and everyone involved,” Palasak said. “It’s also super-awesome to work for one of the area’s most anticipated events of the year!”
University of North Alabama senior journalism major Amanda Abernathy, of Athens, is serving as an intern this summer for the 2013 W.C. Handy Music Festival.
High-resolution photos from the W.C. Handy Music Festival are available on the UNA Gallery at: http://www.unalionsden.com/archive/album.php?album=W.C.%20Handy%20Festival&year=2012