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Alex Vader & Izzy Weir

Alex Vader, left, and Izzy Weir.
Co-Directors, Kindleberger Summer Festival of the Performing Arts

Little did Alex Vader and Izzy Weir know when they connected a couple of years ago on Bumble BFF, an app that helps connect people to new friends, that they would become not only best buddies, but also next-door neighbors in Parchment and ultimately co-organizers and implementers of that town’s multi-day, multi-event Kindleberger Summer Festival of the Performing Arts, which happens July 10–15 this year.

Vader, 29, who works remotely as an account manager for a company that negotiates beverage deals, and Weir, 30, who works as a political campaign strategy consultant, were fairly new to the area and looking for ways to get involved in their community. They told a neighbor, Caroline Garber, who runs the festival’s 5K, that they’d be up for volunteering, and she told them that the director job was open because Kris Jordan had left the role after seven years.

“She said, ‘It’s a lot of work, but you guys could share the role.’ We felt like (Vader’s) event planning skills and my communications and organization skills would be a nice marriage for this festival,” says Weir. “And the next month we were signing contracts and ready to go.”

On the job since October, Weir and Vader coordinate with the Kindleberger Arts Commission, which has chairpersons that plan various aspects of the festival, from the stage, car and arts and crafts shows to the parade, food vendors, breakfast, book and plant sale, cornhole tournament and children’s area.

But the co-directors have found their job involves more than just the festival. There’s also a concert series, fundraisers and grant writing that go on during the year that are part of their responsibilities. They are paid a small stipend, but both say it’s the fun that makes it worthwhile.

“It’s exciting and overwhelming at times,” says Vader, as Weir nods. “The creativity that goes into this and the community involvement is incredible. It’s really fun to see the community come through.”

Vader: Recruiting volunteers. We’re hoping to recruit something like 30 or 50 volunteers for the week of festival and especially that Saturday, which is the biggest day of the festival. They’ll do everything from work in the kids’ area to passing out bananas and water to the 5K runners to driving the golf carts that help shuttle people up the hill to the stage.

Weir: Finding people that are willing to help out, take out some time on their weekend, has been one of the difficult ones. It keeps me up at night. And I will say, you know, it’s hard to please everybody. So finding a theater production that’s going to bring in everybody in the community is, like, near impossible. (This year’s show is 17 Again). It’s hard to just make sure we’re managing enough expectations to keep enough people happy and put on a good event.

Weir: Because we were down a couple of chairpersons, we decided to not do the youth theater production this year, and we’ve had a little bit of pushback from that. So we’re actually going to fill the time slot on Saturday that would have been the youth show with a recital by dancers of Kalamazoo Ballet Arts (a school for young dancers). They’ll do a 90-minute performance before 17 Again.

Vader: Just because we decided to not do a youth show this year doesn’t mean we’re not going to have one next year. We did try to find a show for the adult production that could include high school students so we could involve some kids in the theater show.

Weir: That’s a good question. Putting on a great festival, I would say, and just pulling the community together. It’s really nice to literally walk up the hill from our house and see thousands of people being a part of something that we put on.

Vader: Knowing that it’s something people in the community look forward to and it is always really fun.

Vader: Realizing that a lot of people think of the festival as just the Saturday and how much more it is. It’s Bingo for Bags (a fundraiser held in March), it’s all the theater rehearsals that are going on for months before, it is the concerts and lining those up in November — it’s everything that goes on throughout the year to make this happen, all the logistics and all the work behind the scenes.

Weir: For me, it is the institution that is the festival. We sit in the Arts Commission meetings and someone will reminisce on a festival from 15 years ago. It’s really exciting to how it’s evolved and what else we can do with it to bring new things into it and to make it new and fresh and exciting. It’s really cool to look back and hear some of that institutional knowledge about what the festival was even before we got here.

— Interview by Marie Lee, edited for length and clarity

Marie Lee

Marie is the editor of Encore Magazine and vice president of Encore Publications, Inc. She’s been at the helm of Encore since October 2011. Marie’s background covers the gamut; she’s a former newspaper reporter and editor, a public relations and marketing communications professional, and book editor and collaborator. As Encore’s editor, she is dedicated to bringing the best things about the greater Kalamazoo community to the magazine’s readers.

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