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‘A Labor of Love’

Festival at Sandpoint announces Kelly Whitman as its first-ever Volunteer of the Year By Jillian Chandler | Photo Courtesy of The Festival at Sandpoint

Festival at Sandpoint Volunteer of the Year

Kelly Whitman first joined forces with The Festival at Sandpoint in the early ‘90s, volunteering her time as an EMT. There was no tent like today; they would bring the ambulance right onto the field. She would do this every festival season for a decade.

After taking a few years off, Kelly returned to volunteer as the organization’s front gate co-chair, in which she “is responsible for running and staffing our largest volunteer department that manages all ticket scanning, gates, lines, and signage on the outside of our venue. For 2022, Kelly assisted in managing and scheduling 100 unique volunteers and upwards of 60 volunteers per event,” affirms Ali Baranski, Festival at Sandpoint’s executive director.

When it comes to what brings Kelly back year after year to volunteer her time at the festival, she says, “It’s pretty stressful, but it’s so much fun! And I’m friends with so many of my volunteers, and sometimes that’s the only time we see each other. Most of the volunteers are there every night.”

She acknowledges her three co-chairs—Diane and Kurt Stockton, and Tim Rosco. “I couldn’t do this without them. I would have quit a long time ago [if it wasn’t for them].”

A Volunteer Appreciation Event was held in August to acknowledge and thank all the volunteers who helped during the festival's duration, and during the event, they honored one of the many volunteers (more than 800 volunteers come together to support and donate their time to the Festival at Sandpoint), who has gone above and beyond their volunteer duties.

“We are extremely grateful for the overwhelming number of volunteers nominated and who are deserving of the honor of being named Volunteer of the Year. The decision is not easy, and there is a lot of thought that goes into the process,” shares Ali. “We evaluate our standout volunteers based upon the following core competencies: overall responsibilities, the quantity of work (considering both total years and total hours given during a single season), the quality of work, and how the volunteer makes the Festival at Sandpoint better as an event and organization.”

To Kelly’s surprise, she was honored as the first Volunteer of the Year for the Festival at Sandpoint. Ali, on behalf of the organization, thanked Kelly for “her dedication, thoughtfulness, dependability and tireless efforts throughout the years.”

“I was completely and utterly shocked,” recalls Kelly upon learning she had received the award. “I wasn’t even paying attention to what was being said, and Ali said my name.”

In early September, Kelly would be honored again, this time from the Sandpoint Chamber of Commerce, recognizing her for her work with the festival and awarding her Volunteer of the Month.

“I forgot to mention I was voted ‘Friendliest Woman’ in Bonner County several years ago by the Daily Bee. The thing is, that was the last year they had that category, so I’m still the reigning friendliest woman in Bonner County,” she laughs.

Kelly moved to Sandpoint as a young child, growing up on a farm in the Selle Valley and attending Kootenai School. In addition to volunteering her time to the festival (which begins in May and ends mid-August), she works for the hospital. In her spare time, she enjoys gardening, quilting, doing mosaics and spending time with her seven grandchildren.

When summing up the work she does for The Festival at Sandpoint, Kelly says this: “It is hard work, but it is a labor of love.”

For those interested in volunteering, Ali shares, “A great volunteer for the Festival at Sandpoint is one who is passionate about our organization and the concerts we are able to bring to Sandpoint each summer, and one who wants to donate their time to be a part of why the Festival at Sandpoint is possible. They see that the Festival is not only a fun and cultural event for our community but also see the positive economic impact that it provides to the community each year. We highly value dependability, kindness, a positive attitude, professionalism, selflessness, and fun!

If interested in volunteering, go to

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