(photos courtesy of Sustainival and Travelwanderings.com)

Billed as a “smash up between art, science, and engineering”, Beakerhead is the first festival of its kind in Canada. Want to experience this new phenomenon from the inside out? I did, so I signed up to be a volunteer. Here are some tips for future Beakerhead volunteers.

Sign up Early to get the Best Shifts

Anyone can be a volunteer: sign up online and register for their web application to select your volunteer shifts. I didn’t register right away, and the most popular events (like the Speakernight with Commander Hadfield) had already filled up.

Still, there were more volunteer opportunities at Beakerhead than I expected: driver, info booth, street team, office support, opening ceremonies, volunteer party, Beakernight… Sign up quickly to get a shift that works for you, especially if you don’t have a ton of time to spare. I signed up for a five hour shift at the ‘Launch Pad’ info booth and another at the ‘Sustainival’, a carnival run entirely on sustainable fuel.

Volunteer stuff

Volunteer garb: shirt, bandana, guidebook, and newspaper article about the festival.

Launch Site

The Launch Pad info booth, named for ‘Launching’ your Beakerhead experience, and because there was a 40 foot rocket ship on site. Climb the ladder to explore the inside of the rocket ship.

Know the Beakerhead Events

The more you know about Beakerhead and the different events, the easier your volunteer shift. At the Launch Pad my job was to explain what Beakerhead was about, answer questions, and hand out pamphlets. I would spot people staring at the rocket, and walk up to them asking “So, you want to go and check out the rocket?” This was usually followed by “Why is the rocket here, anyway?” At which point I would launch into my Beakerhead spiel (well honed by the end of my shift) and hand them a program guide.

At the Sustainival my main job was to sell ride wrist bands (which fluctuated between steady and crazy busy) and my second job was to explain what Sustainival was, and why it was there. I cut down the spiel I used at the Launch Pad so people could get down to business on the carnival rides.

The word ‘Beakerhead’ didn’t ring bells with most people I talked to; having attended the events myself, I could answer questions and make suggestions confidently.

Rocks on Top

Sometimes the wind came up, and the rocks came in handy, holding all the paper in place. Many of the events were free, but some were plays, speakers, or other productions that you needed to buy tickets for.

Read the Weather Report

This year Beakerhead in Calgary had great weather every day, but Mother Nature isn’t always so co-operative. Many of the events were outdoors, so chances are your volunteer shift will be too.  I didn’t bring a hat or sunblock for my first volunteer shift, but I learned my lesson and came prepared for my second.

Beakerhead would have gone ahead in the rain, and if you’re going to be outside in the rain for a few hours you’d better be prepared, or it will be pretty miserable.


The Sustainival is ‘the world’s first green carnival’ powered by renewable energy sources: wind, solar, and biofuel made from French fry grease.

Ferris Wheel Solar Panel

The rides at the Sustainival included favourites like the zipper, gravitron, carousel, ferris wheel, and tilt-a-whirl.

Bring Snacks

You’ll be hungry and thirsty during your shift, especially if you’re out in the sun or doing physical labour. There was plenty of bottled water for volunteers at the Launch Pad and the Sustainival, so dehydration was never an issue. There were snacks provided at the Launch Pad, but I wished that I had brought my own because they weren’t the healthiest. For my shift at the Sustainival I brought some food with me, which was fortunate because I never saw any provided snacks.

There were multiple volunteers at both my shifts; downtime gives you a chance to grab something to eat if you’re fortunate enough to have some place nearby you can buy food.

Beakerhead Paraphernalia

The Launch Pad was the only info booth selling official Beakerhead paraphernalia. Money went towards children’s programs for next year’s Beakerhead.

Sustainival DJ Booth

Sustainival’s solar powered DJ booth. It was loud: I could hear the music, the whooshing rides, and screaming people before I even saw the Sustainival.

Sustainival Ride Bracelet

The tent at the Sustainival said ‘Tickets’ but we didn’t actually sell tickets, we sold ride bracelets for unlimited all you can ride fun!

I hope people are looking forward to next year’s Beakerhead as much as I am! Next time I will attend more events, listen to more music, and see more mechanical creations. I’m looking forward to signing up for more volunteer shifts too.

Curious what went on at Beakerhead? Check my photos on Flickr here!


Click here for the original article:  http://travelwanderings.com/volunteering-at-beakerhead/