Volunteer Spotlight – Carrie Capizzano

From feeding the fires, to mingling with the crowd, to late nights spent creating vital materials at the Production Shop, Carrie Capizzano, has been one of WaterFire’s most dependable and flexible volunteers since she joined the WaterFire Volunteer Team in 2010.

A couple of years ago, I saw on my Facebook feed that WaterFire needed help making origami cranes to enclose with letters to donors.  I’d just moved to Providence a little while back, and I was badly under-employed and pretty depressed about it, so I figured, hey, if I’m going to sit around and be depressed, I can certainly make cranes while I do.

Carrie assists with sound check prior to a WaterFire Lighting.

What started out as folding paper eventually led to what Carrie calls “a huge summer of crazy projects and big events.” Since then, Carrie has done just about everything at an event that there is to do, except captain a boat during an actual fire.

It’s most important to me that I can drop into almost any WaterFire-related activity and pull it off.  I’ve realized that what I really like is having a sense of the whole event, and I can’t get that when I do one thing all the time.

When asked what she enjoys doing most during a WaterFire Event Carrie had trouble choosing just one task.

I find working on the boats relatively peaceful.  It’s way more terrifying than it looks, of course — not just the fire itself, which is a constant physical threat, but just the fact of being “onstage” and having everyone stare at you — but at least being on a wood boat involves occasional rest, and it’s a calm, repetitive, zen-like activity.  On shore, there’s less rest, but it’s such great fun talking to people in the crowd.  I love my adopted city and I love helping other people love it even more.  It’s not just WaterFire we talk about; it’s local history, it’s food and drink, it’s the urban experience and the place of the arts in it.

When Carrie isn’t leading torch bearing ceremonies or helping construct rain covers to keep the braziers dry at WaterFire, she is a freelance prop artisan and scenic artist — meaning, she builds everything from curtains to severed heads and beautiful sceneries. Over the years, Carrie has acquired a lot of great skills and personal interests that have come in very handy at WaterFire, especially her love for “wacky projects.”

A couple of years ago, Barnaby called on me to help make giant, breakable dragon eggs.  There was a Chinese dragon coming down the river, and they had all these little paper dragons he wanted to hand out to the crowd, and it only made sense that they would come from giant, breakable dragon eggs.  I only had a week to do it…but with the help of some other volunteer friends we managed to get it done.

Then there was the monkey drop.  Barnaby had this idea that he was going to surprise everyone by dropping stuffed monkeys on the dance floor at the Ballroom on a night when Bananagrams was a sponsor… Everything that possibly could have gone wrong that day went wrong. However, apparently it was perfect from the ground.  And people went insane.  It was a sublime moment, and that was the whole point.

Assembling the monkey drop mechanism.

Carrie Capizzano means more to WaterFire than probably even she realizes. Routinely staying through strike– her ambition, drive, and passion for WaterFire shines through her brightly, especially when she speaks about the rest of the WaterFire Team.

I’d tell them thank you. I’d say thanks for being the people I want to laugh with over lighter fluid at eight in the morning, the people who’ve taught me so much about their diverse lives and made me a part of a community, not just a person existing somewhere. I’d also say thank you to the amazing WaterFire staff, who are truly unsung heroes in all this.

If you’re looking for a way to make a difference in the community, for a way to get out more, or are just plain stuck and don’t know where your life is going, in Carrie’s words: “join us. We need you. It’s hard to quantify or explain. But volunteering for WaterFire can make a person feel awake and alive in the world like very few things can.”

If you would like to join Carrie and start your own WaterFire experience, please contact the WaterFire Volunteer Department at 401.273.9727 or email us at volunteer@waterfire.org

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