Eight years ago this month, I read a lively article in a local paper titled, “Sparking the Triangle.” The piece mentioned music, art, movies, workshops and more, all wrapped up in four days of creative happenings called SPARKcon. To the eyes, mind and heart of a designer who moved to Cary from the high energy, cultural crockpot of Chicago, the come-one-come-all aspect of this opportunity drew me in.

I am still in its grip.

SPARKcon, an interdisciplinary creativity, art and design festival in its ninth year, will bring its volunteer-led SPARKS to life again September 11 – 14. Each SPARK is a theme (think: theater, comedy, fashion) and every year, each SPARK and its activities are created by any person(s) willing to walk in to one of the monthly meetings and say, “Here’s an idea. What if…” And so it starts — with ideas and people willing to offer their time, talents and energy to create with others. There will be 14 SPARKS this year at multiple locations, offering opportunities for more teen and adult volunteers to be involved. There will even be a filmSPARK event in my town at the newly opened Cary Theater.

This year, I am lucky to be a SPARKcon Bobblehead (aka organizer) with the focus of connecting new volunteers with various SPARKS. For me, volunteering is in my DNA. I grew up watching my parents and older siblings share their skills and smiles while helping at school, sporting events and at church. As a child when I volunteered, I was just part of a group having fun together. As an adult, I learned the benefits derived from volunteering: skill development, personal growth, career and networking opportunities. I also became aware of the positive economic impact volunteers have on a community. With the many advantages of volunteering, and aside from certain physical and personal limitations, I am curious to understand why only 25% of the U.S. population volunteered last year.

Maybe that remaining 75% just had not discovered the right opportunity. Maybe that part of our community had not heard about SPARKcon, where chalk drawings cover three city blocks, where you can create tunes on a 96-foot-long xylophone, where personal poetry is created for you as you wait and where you can join a circus parade that turns into a dance party in the middle of City Plaza.

Would you like to have some fun and up the percentage of volunteers in the Triangle? SPARKcon offers an open invitation this year and every year to Triangle residents and beyond to become part of this distinctive grassroots festival. Visit SPARKcon.com or call 919.828.7834.

Janet Stracke is an organizer for SPARKcon.

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