July 19, 2017

Moisture Festival Volunteers: The Hammerheads

By Steve Wacker
Big thanks to Ron W. Bailey for editorial contributions

Last year I wrote a post about the good folks at Hale’s Ales, who operate the primary venue for all the silliness, sassiness, sauciness, and cheek that is the Moisture Festival we’ve all come to anticipate each spring. As the primary venue, Hale’s Palladium is pretty danged important – but hopefully most readers of this blog appreciate the fact that the legions of MF volunteers are just as important, and that the Festival couldn’t maintain the merriment without them.
This post is about a special group of volunteers, the Moisture Festival Hammerheads, whose motto is 

“We work to make art work.” It’s a motto to be proud of, I think. The Hammerheads like to use their hands, and they enjoy working together.

Typically, when certain MF things need to be done, the Hammerheads get together and figure out a plan to achieve the tasks at hand. Such tasks might include building a stage, building props, securing beams for aerial rigging, creating dressing rooms, hanging sound baffles, upgrading the sound system, upgrading the lighting system, hanging curtains, creating a kitchen with all its appliances – there’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes, as you might imagine. The Hammerheads are as flexible as they are talented – the tasks present themselves and they get to work.

In a recent phone conversation, Hammerhead Mike Bailey (no relation to Festival Artistic Director and co-founder Ron W. Bailey) related an interesting story that I thought was worth sharing.

It may not be obvious to MF attendees, but the brightly painted west-facing entry doors to the Palladium (see the following photo) were actually cutouts within much larger doors – as in 13 feet high larger. These larger doors exist so that semi-trucks can drive right into the warehouse – after all, Hales IS a working brewery.

This last winter the building was the victim of a hit-and-run, probably by a truck. “The façade of the Palladium was crunched,” as Mike put it. In addition to the damage, the wettest winter in Seattle history had also affected the doors. An assessment of the damage determined that the doors needed something between repair and replacement, in addition to a fair amount of tweaking and adjusting – because, as previously noted, these are big doors. Those of us who struggle to make sure the backyard screen door is hanging straight can appreciate that hanging doors of this size isn’t a simple task

Opening night of the Festival was approaching, and the main venue was in need of some carpentry TLC. So who you gonna call? The Hammerheads, of course. 
The Hammerheads are always up for a challenge – they know how to get things done. They not only managed to fix the damaged façade, they also redesigned and repainted it to make the entryway fully functional again. And they completed the job a couple of weeks before opening night. The new façade is shown in the following photo.

Another improvement this year was a merchandise trailer – perhaps you noticed it. “The Festival is trying to think through the right way to do merchandise – it would be great to be able to generate a bit more of a revenue stream,” said Mike. Someone donated a small utility trailer to the Festival, which the Hammerheads transformed into a kind of caravan wagon, perfect for selling merchandise. Special thanks to Hammerhead Steve Clark for the use of his shop during the project. It made its debut at this year’s Festival, outside the new doors and facing the box office.

The Hammerheads are often recognized at the festival, but their work is mostly accomplished out of the spotlight. Ron W. Bailey noted that there’s been a core group of Hammerhead volunteers involved since 2004, the Festival’s first year. “When a few of them show up together, stories are swapped, often over a few beers. Many of them come from careers that don’t involve construction at all, including men and women of many different ages and many walks of life. But they truly enjoy being hands-on and they very much appreciate the camaraderie.”

“Working with this group has led to some of my proudest moments regarding Moisture Festival,” says Bailey. “We hit the nail on the head knowing that people who work together laugh stronger and longer.” After a pun like that, what else is there to say?

Seattle's Moisture Festival of Comedy/Varietè, founded in 2004, is the largest and longest running comedy/varietè festival in the world. Learn more at http://www.moisturefestival.org/.

Thanks to Kirby Lindsay for background information. 

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