For years, the Saint Martin’s University Alumni Association was a mainstay at the annual Capital Lakefair. With its bright red paint job and well-known “Saint Burger,” the food booth easily stood out and was a popular destination for fair-goers.
But you won’t see them at this year’s Lakefair.
According to Joyce Rommel, who is a member of the Saint Martin’s University Alumni Association and also is the Food Concession Chair of Lakefair, the booth was sold to a private party in Shelton for an undisclosed amount. Rommel said that the party who bought the booth will not be present at this year’s Lakefair.
“We are very sad to see it go,” Rommel said.
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Genevieve Chan, who is the vice president of the Office of Marketing and Communications for the university, provided clarity on the sale.
In the past, she said, the Saint Martin’s Alumni Association had operated under its own 501(3)c nonprofit status and was a separate nonprofit from Saint Martin’s University. Last year, when Saint Martin’s University established its new National Alumni Board, the members of the Alumni Association voted to disband their organization. It was during this process that the Alumni Association voted to sell the food truck, Chan said.
Still, there are 13 different non-profit food vendors at Lakefair on Water Street. Each vendor is responsible for finding their own set of volunteers.
Some food vendors at Lakefair are struggling to find people who are able to spend long hours working in the food trucks. The Olympia Kiwanis Club and Foundation and the Tumwater Rotary Club, both which have appeared at Lakefair in the past, will not be present for a second consecutive year due to a lack of volunteers.
The problem is persistent too. The struggle for volunteers has become a trend over the years, Rommel said.
And it’s not just Lakefair having trouble with finding volunteers. The issue is statewide.
Volunteering as a whole has been dipping over time. Per data from the Corporation for National & Community Service, the volunteer rate in Washington state neared a 10-year high in 2012. Five years later, that rate dropped considerably, making it the second lowest point since 1989.
There are efforts underway by Lakefair officials to address dwindling volunteerism. Karen Griggs, president of Lakefair, said the organization is working with Avanti High School, which has provided volunteers.
Griggs hopes that by starting at the high school-level, volunteering will become a norm.
Rommel agrees that getting the younger generation to participate may be a solution.
Some in the community are already working to establish that norm within their own families. Ryan Riedl, 39, was one of the volunteers cleaning tables and picking up trash at Lakefair. Riedl, who serves as a firefighter for the city of Kirkland, brought along his son and daughter.
“It’s a self-fulfillment thing for the community,” Riedl said. “Just showing them that, hey it’s a good thing to give back. It’s not all about carnival rides and food.”
Logan Stanley: 360-754-5433, @LSscribe