Here’s What It Was Like To Volunteer At Overland Expo
Volunteering at outdoor events in your RV is a way to give back to your community whether it is the community where you live or a community of like-minded people with similar interests. It will usually save you some money, but more importantly, you may get some personal satisfaction while doing it.
Becoming a volunteer at Overland Expo
I applied to be a Overland Expo volunteer months in advance and then roughly 6 weeks before the event I was accepted. I received an email with a link, completed some preliminary information, signed a number of waivers, then applied for enough volunteer assignments to fulfill my 11-hour work commitment.
Once I had signed all the required waivers and fulfilled the work commitment, I received another link to register for the event and benefits.
The benefits of being a volunteer
Being a volunteer entitled me to free camping the day before my first assignment through Monday, the day after the event ended, as well as many of the benefits of the premium Overland Experience. The event ran until Sunday at 3 p.m.
I arrived on Wednesday, because my first assignment was the registration booth all day Thursday. Volunteers had a designated camping area close to the showers and porta potties. I backed in along the fence line and relaxed the rest of the day, watching a steady stream of vendors turn a empty field into an outdoor shopping mall. The camping area was nothing more than a giant field, with 20 foot by 20 foot spaces marked out by orange paint.
Volunteering is not just work
As a volunteer, I could attend almost all of the seminars and activities. So, on Friday, I walked the vendor area and attended a few seminars. The seminars were 50 minutes long and usually very informative. The speakers had firsthand knowledge of their topic.
After a full day of activity, I headed over to Happy Hour for a few beers and some entertainment. During Happy Hour, they had a couple of bands playing, with tables and chairs set up in the tent and outside. At 7 p.m., they held a fundraising raffle drawing to raise money for the Overland Expo Foundation. They gave away lots of prizes and the woman serving as master of ceremonies was very entertaining.
The Overland Expo Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to advancing the protection of public lands and funding travelers that make a difference in our communities. The raffle raised over $10,000.
Working as a volunteer
I began my first day at 8:30 a.m. and completed it at 6:30 p.m. During the day, I stuffed welcome bags, helped register people, and did other various assignments. They supplied a t-shirt, water, lunch, and dinner. The staff were great, they accepted the volunteers as co-workers, and tried to make us feel comfortable with whatever tasks we were assigned. We joked around in between customers and everyone pitched in to help each other. Finally, at 6:30, I headed to Happy Hour to cash in my free drink coupon.
Since Happy Hour was only from 5 -7 p.m., I headed directly there without changing out of my bright orange volunteer shirt. A couple of attendees approached me while I was waiting in line getting a beer and thanked me for making their registration enjoyable.
Saturday morning, I worked my second assignment, which was a four hour shift. I manned one of the vehicle entrance gates for a few hours where I checked credentials and directed traffic. Later, they moved me over to the walk-in gate to hand out maps and schedules. My shift ended at noon and they sent me into headquarters for a box lunch. At this point, I had completed my work commitments and was free to do whatever I wanted for the remainder of the event.
Volunteering is also about improving skills
In addition to attending numerous classroom-style seminars, I also drove a couple of Dodge trucks and Jeeps on two different overland obstacle courses. I even did a “Learn to ride” motorcycle class and managed to ride a Yamaha 200 motorcycle safely around a dirt track. Clutch Motorcycle School of Loveland, CO sponsored the event and supplied the motorcycle and all the necessary gear.
On Sunday, the event ended at 3 p.m. and there was a mass exodus of vendors and campers. Myself and a few other campers decided to spend one more night and head out on Monday, rather than participate in the mad rush to the highway. Watching the vendors break down from a distance was interesting. I was amazed that the larger vendors actually had tractor trailers arrive such as Atlas Van Lines to move the exhibit booth material.
This was the third Overland Expo that I attended, but the first one as a volunteer. Working as a volunteer did not detract from my enjoyment, in fact, I felt it enhanced it, plus I saved the cost of the entrance fee, weekend camping pass, and a few beers.
Overland Expo has two more events this year, Overland Expo West in Flagstaff, AZ, September 24 – 26, 2021 and Overland Expo East, in Arrington, VA, Oct 8 – 10, 2021. For more information visit their website, www.overlandexpo.com.
I highly recommend volunteering at events for which you are interested. Most events have websites with a tab which will take you to an application to volunteer. The more flexible you are, the more likely you will be accepted as a volunteer.
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