Matt Nagatomi became the Co-Chair of the Logistics Committee for the Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival (NCCBF) in 2012, but he first started volunteering in 2007 through the Japanese Community Youth Council. The program allowed him to volunteer at many events throughout the year and each offered a different experience to connect with the community. This Festival stood out from the rest because it wasn’t just local community members in attendance — thousands of people come to experience Japantown and enjoy the Festival over the four-day event. “After my first year of volunteering all four days, I knew I wanted to come back the next year and many years following that,” he said.
Learn more about Matt’s experience with the Festival, and see what it’s like to volunteer with the Logistics Team!
Q: Can you briefly explain some of the responsibilities of your team?
A: During the months leading up to the Festival, the Logistics Committee handles the ordering of necessary equipment and supplies needed for the event: tables, chairs, tents and generators for booths, food and beer areas, stages, etc. We also work with official city departments, including SFMTA, SF Parks and Rec, SFPD and CalTrans, to ensure that the Festival is operating within all guidelines and regulations of San Francisco. This is in regards to festival operating hours, street closures, and proper sound and noise levels. As the schedule of events begin to come together for the four days of the Festival, individual groups and committees begin requesting volunteers for specific times and task, at which point, our amazing Volunteer Coordinator begins creating a schedule to fulfill all the necessary needs.
Q: Where do you station yourself during the Grand Parade? Any tips to first-time parade goers?
A: With the parade beginning at SF City Hall and ending in Japantown on Fillmore Street, there are many places to observe the parade from! The parade officially starts at 1 p.m. and arrives at Laguna St around 1:30-1:45 p.m., but people will begin claiming their viewing area as early as 11 a.m. From Laguna to Fillmore Street, the sidewalks are crowded, as there is the parade audience as well as general foot traffic. I recommend families with small children or strollers stage themselves between Laguna and Gough Street, where there is more room.
During the parade, I have the honor to take part in the role of the Pooper Scooper, where my primary duties include cleaning up remains created by SFPD’s Color Guard Mounted Unit. Our motto is, “It’s a crappy job, but someone has to do it!”
Q: If I want to volunteer with the Logistics team, what can I expect? Do I have to arrive really early and work for all four days?
A: Volunteering with Logistics is broken up into shifts that run typically four hours but volunteers are welcome to work past their scheduled end time, as the tasks throughout the day vary and offer different experiences. The morning shifts for volunteering with Logistics would be arriving between 7 a.m. and 8 a.m. to help with the initial set up for the day. This includes tasks such as setting up tables and chairs in booths and stage areas, building barricades in event areas such as Hello Kitty Land and the Beer Garden, and helping vendors and sponsors with moving product and equipment to their booths. The midday shifts begin around 12 p.m. and tasks include: helping maintain a smooth operation of the Festival, through providing security for stage areas and beer boundaries, escorting and assisting musicians and artist to and from stage and performing areas, gate traffic monitoring and general maintenance of the Festival grounds. The evening shifts begin around 4 p.m. and consist of maintaining Festival operations through the end of the day (generally 6 p.m.), followed by assisting vendors and sponsors with departing the fairgrounds, as well as getting the fairgrounds ready for the following Festival day on Sunday or normal street operation Monday. No matter how many hours you volunteer, the work is fun, exciting, occasionally dirty. And most importantly, it provides a sense of accomplishment in providing a memorable experience for over 300,000 attendees.
Q: What’s the most rewarding or exciting aspect of volunteering with the Logistics team?
A: The most rewarding aspect of working with the Logistics Committee is acting as the backbone for day-to-day Festival operations. Any volunteer position is a vital part of the Festival — whether it be traffic gate monitoring, Festival maintenance, or stage security — and participation in the roles helps with the providing a wonderful experience at one of the biggest street fairs in San Francisco. With 300,000 attendees over the four days covering six blocks of Japantown, every role within the Logistics Committee is a key component in creating the NCCBF.