SALMON ARM - As you step through the gates of the Salmon Arm Roots and Blues Festival, volunteer Dennis Roberts will be the guy telling you there’s gum stuck to your pants, or that you fit the description of a police suspect, just for the heck of it. And while his motive is mischievous, the whole farce is meant to make others happy. Dennis craves nothing more than to make you burst out laughing — after you've hurriedly brushed off your clothes, or anxiously removed a sandal so he can inspect it for smuggled goods.
Dennis is the festival’s resident jokester, prankster and friendly ambassador. He’s been involved in some capacity since it all began. Those early days comprised of informal folk shows in community halls and blossomed into a major music event. Dennis has been there for whatever handiwork, errand-running, and idea-bouncing he can be of help with. And as the festival turns 23 this year, Dennis turns 62. His birthday, Aug. 15, usually falls on the Roots and Blues weekend.
He’s the guy other volunteers come to when they need help finding a rake or piece of equipment and banters constantly with his teammates, setting the tone for a good time.
“The volunteering thing is extremely fulfilling because I get to interact with other humans,” Dennis says. “Otherwise I’d just be lying at home watching T.V.”
He’ll joke around with anyone, whether they’re old friends, strangers, or even police. While watering the festival grounds by moonlight recently, he was approached by police wanting to know what he was up to. His reaction?
“I sprayed the nozzle at them. If they got wet they should keep their windows closed,” he says with a laugh.
The self-professed mischief maker will do anything to put a smile on someone’s face, and savours the numerous connections he’s made with festival-goers over the years. Be warned, he'll talk your ear off with his many jokes, stories and inspirational fables, but you're guaranteed to walk away laughing and in good spirits, not to mention with a special memory to take home.
“It’s not just about doing the grass, but doing my best to make people feel welcome,” he says.
He loves the camaraderie of volunteering and the many "beautiful surprises" he encounters at the festival every year. He loves watching people lose themselves in the music, and getting lost in it himself too, although he says his "Disco Denny" days are, for the most part, over.
He’ll be helping out for as long as he can run a weed-whacker, and longer if the festival has a use for him, he says.
“If they need a skeleton, I’ll be here,” he says.
For more information on this year's Roots and Blue Festival, which runs Aug. 14, 15, and 16, click here.
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