Friday, August 14, 2009

Ode on the Fun Fourth Interns

Summer is slowly winding down. We've, hopefully, had our only bout of dog days, Fun Fourth is all put away and we're actually working on Festival of Lights -- trying to imagine the desire to ho ho ho while it's still August. The clearest sign that summer is ending, however, is that we are saying goodbye to another batch of interns and sending them back into the world.

We started hiring summer interns five years ago. The first batch was Dan, Joe and that pretty girl whose name I can't remember. It's not that she wasn't proficient. In fact, she left her summer internship with us and went off to run a summer festival somewhere in the eastern part of the state. I think me not remembering her name is more a reflection on me than her. The reason I remember Dan and Joe is that they lingered on after their internships were over -- working events periodically. In fact, Joe worked events for the next several years. I don't know where Dan is now; I hope he's doing something great because he really had a lot to bring to the table. Joe, who we figured would never grow up and get a real job, although we probably didn't despair as much as as his parents, is now a manager at Target, married and with a bigger house then I'll ever even dream of owning.

Then there were Fern & Joyel. To be honest, I just spent 15 minutes hunting through the archives to find their names. I remembered Fern distinctly, but I couldn't remember her name, and Joyel -- well, I just couldn't remember her at all until I saw her name. Again -- more a reflection on me and my menopausal brain. Fern was an ROTC student from NCA&T. She had more energy than I had when I was five. Fern wanted be an urban logistical planner or something like that. She made maps and lists and planned out the logistics of Fun Fourth to the last detail. Unfortunately, what Fern hadn't counted on was that on the day of the event, you have to be able to adjust all those carefully made plans on the fly. Joyel was a runner. She was also nice, smart, competent, easy to be around -- she just came and did her job well and left.

The next year, 2006, we had Deanna, Nina and Sara. Part of our internal intern game we play is to guess at the beginning which intern will crater on the 4th, who will just be paralyzed and who will shine. Deanna was bubbly and outgoing, Nina was a complete space cadet who was rarely on our planet, and Sara tried so hard she just ended up annoying everyone. We figured Sara would be paralyzed, Nina would crater and Deanna would shine. In fact, Deanna completely cratered, Nina calmly sailed through the day as though she had been doing this every day, and Sara took us all by surprise by being competent, efficient and a joy to be with the entire day. Deanna and Nina came back the next year just to work Fun Fourth; Sara went of to Mexico to be an exchange student. We still periodically hear from all of them.

Kristen and LaToya were up next. Those two were about as different as they come, and yet they banded together against the common enemy -- me mostly, I think. LaToya had lots of sass and boyfriend problems and cleaned the office when she didn't like what we really wanted her to do. Hard to chastise someone for not doing what you want them to do when they are doing what you don't want to. Kristen was one of those rare finds in the world of interns -- the intern that just got it -- all of it. She seemed to intuitively understand how best to work with us, how we wanted things done, when to walk away because she was finding our nerve, why we do things the way we do them -- even the parts that barely make sense to us. If we could have kept Kristen forever, we would have, but after working for us part-time the next year on the Bicentennial, Kristen went out, like a grown-up, and got a real job.

Crystal was our lone Fun Fourth intern in 2008. Perhaps our reputation is starting to get around because we seem to be having more difficulty finding interns. I felt bad for Crystal -- the combination of being in over her head to begin with and not having anyone to commiserate with was hard for her. She was a very nice young woman and tried very hard so it's somewhat unfortunate that her Fun Fourth claim to fame will always be crashing a golf cart into the gate of a chain link fence on the Fourth because she didn't see it.

(At this point, I do have to at least mention Aislinn. Technically, she was a Grassroots intern in 2008, but we shared her with Greenefields Productions and the Coliseum's marketing department. She was only with us one day a week and was focusing on PR so she didn't get the entire Fun Fourth intern experience -- pulling staples from and cleaning nasty vinyl tablecloths, pouring out year-old soda, etc. She was, however, an excellent errand runner the week of the Fourth and did come in at 5am on the morning of the Fourth to shuttle performers to tv cut-ins. Of course, unlike the rest of us, she was back in bed by 10am, too. She also managed to parlay her internship into some free golf lessons. Obviously, she was our savviest intern.)

That brings us to this year's crop of interns. Carissa and Owen are the youngest interns we've had; they're the first interns we've had that have no particular interest in or knowledge of festivals or event planning; they're the first interns we've had that were friends coming into this chaos. Have they been the best interns we've ever had -- in the sense of independently helping execute Fun Fourth? Probably not, but they brought their own creativity and style to the job that has kept us laughing, they've certainly added a different dynamic to our blog, and what I will remember most about them and always be grateful for is that they were the first interns we've had that actually had a blast at Fun Fourth. Sometimes we lose sight of that whole FUN part -- they reminded us what it's all supposed to be about.

I often wonder how much impact we have on the young lives that put themselves into our care for a few months. Do they ever look and back and say, "When I was a Fun Fourth intern..."? I know that regardless of the fact that I can't remember some of their names, their stories live on in the fabric of Fun Fourth, the rituals that have become specific to every year's interns now. I hope we have become a part of the story of their lives, too.

And while about most of them, I will continue to periodically wonder where they are and what they are doing, this year's interns and the ones that are yet to come will not be so lucky -- in this new age of cyber development we are undergoing at Grassroots Productions, all interns are required to be my friend on Facebook so that I can stalk them and randomly issue quixotic instructions, just to see if the brainwashing is still intact. Perhaps, one day, they'll even have their own Facebook group!

To the interns who have gone before, we salute you -- Fun Fourth would not be the same without what all of you gave to it. To Carissa and Owen, safe travels back to NYU and UNCW -- I'm not sure how what you learned here will translate in your lives, but know that we carry you with us in ours.

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