National Black Theater Festival kicks off in Winston-Salem

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- Volunteers come from all over the nation to Winston-Salem every other year.

“We want to be involved,” said Dr. Elwanda Ingram, who has volunteered since the first festival 40 years ago.

Volunteers are widely considered the most vital piece of the National Black Theatre Festival.

“We want to volunteer. It’s an honor and a privilege for us to be a part of this national event that’s not in New York or Los Angeles. It’s right here in Winston Salem,” Dr. Ingram said.

From selling tickets at the box office to getting people registered, over 1,500 volunteers are in town this week. Many are rollovers from past festivals.

Dr. Ingram says volunteers keep returning because they’re part of something special and of course there are perks.

“Not only did I want to see Oprah, I wanted to see Stedman and I got a picture with Stedman Graham,” Dr. Ingram said.

This year she elevates from volunteer to VIP, receiving the Theatre Arts and Humanitarian award.

“It takes a real coordinated effort to pull all of those people together and to make it run smoothly,” said Wende Walker, who volunteers in the box office.

Walker has been to all 15 festivals.

“I volunteered for the very first festival in 1989. I moved away, but I always came back every year because there’s so much excitement and so much energy here," Walker said.

Each year, volunteers get a special volunteer discount on tickets. And they get special volunteer shirts with new designs for every festival.

It’s a collector's item and a token of thanks to the people who donate their time every other summer.

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