Celebrating Festival Volunteers at the Volunteer Connect Awards

Volunteer of the Year Award Winners pictured with event Sponsors, The Crawford Group.

Volunteers, event organizers, members of the community including industry partners, and OFN staff gathered at Irene’s Pub on Bank Street for a successful and inspiring 2023 Volunteer Connect Awards on October 11th, 2023.  

 Generously sponsored by The Crawford Group and hosted by the hilarious David Brennan, the Ottawa Festival Network was elated to present grand prizes to deserving volunteers across four different Volunteer of the Year categories: Senior, Adult, Youth, and Rookie. Over 50 volunteers were nominated by OFN member organizations. 

Mayor Mark Sutcliffe speaking to the crowd. Photo courtesy of @_MarkSutcliffe.

The afternoon brought forth many laughs, moments of gratitude, great conversations, and touching speeches. Special thanks to Mayor Mark Sutcliffe for joining us and sharing his gratitude for volunteers in Ottawa and reminding us of their positive impact on our community. During this special gathering, we were also overjoyed to hear Jo Riding, Executive Director at the Canadian Tulip Festival and Kelly Neall, Executive Director at the International Film Festival of Ottawa speak about the deep impact of volunteers and their instrumental contributions.

MC of the evening David Brennan.

This event served as a celebration of all the selfless and tireless efforts of volunteers of all ages across the city who allow our favourite events to run smoothly year after year. As found in a past study conducted by OFN, over 16,000 volunteers dedicate a combined 310,000 hours of their time to festivals around Ottawa annually. Without them, events in the nation’s capital would not be possible.  

Melissa Dawe, winner of the Adult Volunteer of the Year prize, finds the experience of volunteering rewarding.  

“The thing I enjoy most is the interactions with the people attending the event. Handing them a flag and taking photos with or for them on Canada Day or helping them to chisel prizes out of blocks of ice at Winterlude; I love that I have the opportunity to bring them joy and be part of their happy memory,” she said.  

Youth Volunteer of the Year winner, Drew Newell.

Alex Neumann, a nominated volunteer also commented on the benefits of giving back.  “I enjoyed meeting so many other volunteers at the festival, and to be able to give back to the community,” he said.

Earlier this year, OFN with funding from the City of Ottawa launched a new volunteer recruitment platform for festivals called Volunteer Connect. Now the city’s #1 destination for finding volunteer opportunities in the festival, special events and fair industry, Volunteer Connect makes it easier than ever to find ways to get involved. As many of the volunteers at the VCA event could attest, there are many benefits to volunteering and all are welcomed and appreciated. We encourage anyone interested to visit Volunteer Connect to sign up and discover current positions. 

The Ottawa Festival Network would like to thank our sponsor, The Crawford Group; David Brennan for hosting; Irene’s Pub for the event space; and Ottawa Public Health for not only their attendance at the event but for their ongoing role, support, and collaboration in ensuring residents stay safe while attending festivals, events, and fairs in the city year-round. To the volunteers, we of course thank you for making festivals and events in Ottawa so wonderful through your dedication and hard work.  

Head over to our Facebook page to see all the photos from the event.

Photos by Emma Poole.