Before Andi Otto took a full-time position as Pride’s director of operations earlier this year, he was a longtime member of the festival’s volunteer army—without whom the weekend-long celebration couldn’t happen. Here, he tells us how crucial Pride’s volunteers are to the event.
Roughly how many volunteers are involved in Twin Cities Pride each year? How do you go about organizing that many people?
We have a year-round volunteer staff of about 30, and there are approximately 150 additional event volunteers. It’s a lot of late nights and very large spreadsheets. Honestly, it’s really about being very detail-oriented and having great communication.
You were a volunteer for many years yourself, right? What made you start volunteering and what brought you back year after year?
Up until this year when I took a full-time position, I had been volunteering with Pride for 15 years with a couple of years off due to my jobs and starting a family. I started as a way to get more involved with the community and be part of planning an event that brings people together with a sense of belonging. There’s nothing better than Sunday night, once everything is done and the crowd has gone, to sit back and realize that all the hard work paid off.
Can you talk about just how important volunteers are when it comes to making Pride happen?
With a staff of three people—and that is only as of this year—it could not happen without volunteers. Volunteers are the backbone of Pride. From community members like myself to allies who want to show their support, it creates a feeling of family and home. You can’t get that any other way.