Volunteers look forward to WGI event dates
WATKINS GLEN (8/3/16)--The races at Watkins Glen International (WGI) Thursday through Sunday, Aug. 4 through 7 are big events for NASCAR fans. The same can also be said for the many organizations who send volunteers to help out at the race track. Marianne Shoemaker with WGI said there are well over 1,000 people who volunteer at the track every year for the NASCAR race, noting they also get many for other events at the track throughout the year.
"It works out well for everyone," Shoemaker said, mentioning the volunteers get to see parts of the race while also bringing home some money for their organizations. "It's a win-win."
The Watkins Glen Fire Department will be one of several companies on duty at the Watkins Glen International (WGI) race track this weekend. The departments will be working to keep the track and its visitors safe during the NASCAR events taking place Thursday, Aug. 4 through Sunday, Aug. 7.
Watkins Glen Fire Chief Charlie Scaptura said he has been part of the fire crew volunteering at the race track for the past 15 years. He said they are one of about six departments who are on duty at the track, adding the total fire staff is around 137 people and eight fire engines. He said Watkins contributes two fire engines, along with a crew of two fire officers and 12 crew members per day.
Scaptura said the department takes care of everything off the track as well, treating everything from a minor cut on a foot to more serious injuries. He said most of their calls are medical in nature, receiving an average of 60 calls each day on NASCAR weekend.
"Once in awhile you will get a couple couches burning from people who don't want to take some of their things home," Scaptura said.
The chief said the department prepares for the race during monthly meetings throughout the entire year. These meetings range from small department meetings to meeting with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Office of Emergency Management (OEM) to go over safety updates at the track. Scaptura said not too much has changed in 15 years, but said the protocols can change depending on what events are held during the weekend from year to year.
He said the crew will get all of their equipment up to the track beginning Wednesday, Aug. 3. Scaptura said his favorite parts of working at the track include meeting interesting people, adding people seem to take care of themselves and be more responsible than they were 15 years ago.
Walt Scheuer of the Hector Lions Club said they are entering their third year of volunteering at the track and will be sending 25 club members and their friends who also volunteered. Scheuer previously was part of the Watkins Glen Lions Club and has been volunteering at the track almost every year since 1996. He said it is one of the club's main fundraisers for the year which goes to things like building wheelchair ramps, funding the area food bank and helping provide scholarship funds to students.
Scheuer said the track is good to work for, adding he and the volunteers enjoy their time at the race. He said they work as ushers in the grandstands, adding, "there is not much that is difficult," about the job. Scheuer said even on hot days, they are able to get out of the direct sunlight by mostly working beneath the shade of the grandstands.
Bridgette Stewart works to organize 11 different Rotary Clubs throughout the area to send volunteers to the NASCAR race each year. These clubs include the Watkins-Montour Rotary Club, along with several from the Southern Tier. She said she has about 70 volunteers this year, saying this is the fifth year the group will be sending volunteers to the track.
Stewart said the clubs she is involved in is also part of the network that handles the finances for Camp STAR, which is a week-long camp for children, ages 6 through 12, with a physical or developmental disability that might keep them from enjoying a typical camping experience. She said helping out at the track is one of the big fundraisers for the camp, expecting to raise around $5,000 from NASCAR, the IMSA race in July and will be volunteering at the IndyCar race in September to provide 60 kids with the camping experience.
Stewart said her group helps run nine information booths at the track which assists visitors in finding their way around or getting their questions answered. She added shifts can run between four and eight hours for volunteers depending on the date and where their booth is located. Stewart said she spends the entire time driving around on a golf cart all four days helping to keep her volunteers organized. She said she enjoys seeing her mom who comes to volunteer every year from Florida, but noted it can be difficult scheduling the volunteers, especially if a volunteer cannot make it after signing up for a spot.
"It is a great experience," Stewart said.
Julie Champion of Child and Family Resources Inc. in Penn Yan said the organization is in their second year of sending volunteers to the track. They will be sending approximately 29 people to the NASCAR races this year, with six people volunteering Saturday and 23 volunteering Sunday. Champion added they are still looking for additional people who are willing to help as well, mentioning their volunteers will be working as greeters, ushers and ticket takers at one of the track's grandstands.
Champion said their volunteers raise around $1,000 which will go to help fund agency functions such as their playgroup and parenting programs. She mentioned they will be working a smaller grandstand this year, adding they made around $1,500 last year working the main grandstand. Champion said her volunteers enjoy getting to see parts of the race and also get refreshments and lunch throughout the days they are working. However, she noted the more difficult aspects of the job include finding and organizing volunteers.