Volunteer Roles and Opportunities
Curious about what you can volunteer for at WaterFire? Here are all the ways you can help. If you see something that piques your interest please fill out our Volunteer Orientation form to start your WaterFire Providence Volunteer Experience.
Event Day: Morning/Afternoon Set Up | Morning Build
Event Night: Merchandise Team | Ambassadors of Light | Starry, Starry Night Installation | Luminaria Installation | Special Ops Crew | Wood Boat Crew | Brazier Society | Strike Crew
Additional Activities: Woodpile Workouts | Prep Parties | Special Projects
Morning /Afternoon Set Up:
Along the shores of Waterplace Park, visitors can find a number of volunteer-run stations offering donation opportunities, WaterFire merchandise, special performances, and ancillary installations. Volunteers helping with these setups should expect a healthy amount of walking and light lifting and can also expect to work as part of a small team or pair. Daytime visitors to the park will often engage said volunteers in conversation about the evening to come – so some background on WaterFire is helpful, which we will provide you with.
Morning Build (18+):
Help construct the braziers that will set the City alight at sunset. This task is for physically active persons who enjoy working within a team and are comfortable working on the river for approximately three hours. Learn to make fire fuses, construct bonfires correctly, and participate in firewood reload to help prepare for the evening’s events.
Volunteers help our guests “take the magic home” by setting up our merchandise to sell and then helping our guests make purchases. This is a fun way to connect with our guests who travel from far and wide to see what WaterFire is all about. Volunteers can work at either our main merchandise tent or at one of the smaller merchandise set ups along the river.
Ambassadors of Light:
A very fun, social opportunity for volunteers who enjoy interacting with the public by creating a welcoming environment at a Guest Station. Ambassadors of Light at our Guest Stations, marked by an 11’ high bright blue Beacon of Light and neon colored Koi fish, are the hosts and hostesses of WaterFire, greeting visitors warmly and engaging in conversation about their travels and experience at WaterFire. Volunteers working this station welcome visitors with whom they interact. In turn, visitors become a part of the moving piece of art by wearing a sticker or a Ribbon of Light after a donation.
Starry, Starry Night Installation:
Visitors to WaterFire can “wish upon a star” of their own at this magical installation in Memorial Park where large blue paper star lanterns are nestled in the treetops of this dark and dreamy grove. Volunteers are needed to help welcome visitors, assist in hanging stars, and placing Luminaria lanterns where they are needed. This is a quiet, yet busy location; volunteers can expect frequent interactions with visitors.
Anyone visiting WaterFire is asked to “add [their] light to the night” by lighting a Luminaria lantern. These elegant paper bag lanterns are a complement to the bonfires on the river. With each lantern, visitors make a dedication or special note. Often, this note is in memory of a loved one or in celebration. At these stations, volunteers help light and process luminaria and ensure the each visitor has a unique experience.
Special Ops Crew (18+):
At WaterFire, we are always striving to do something a bit different in order to create highlight moments for the season. Our Special Ops teams make those moments possible. It can be as basic as a torch ceremony through the crowd, handing out items to visitors, or providing crowd control during the movement of open flame. It can also be as large as helping to light a Ring of Fire with 100 torches encircling the Basin or dropping event favors from a rooftop onto the crowd below. It’s always new, exciting; fast-paced, and brings a signature quality to each and every event.
Wood boat Crew (18+):
Event wood boat crew volunteers are the fire tenders for the evening and are not only doing a task – they are performers. Boat crews led by Captains and First Mates are responsible for maintaining bonfires and keeping pace with the overall performance. Duties require placing logs onto braziers to rekindle fires, reloading firewood into the boat from under bridges, and working with fellow crewmembers to uphold the artistic integrity of the installation. This is a quiet performance, symbolizing the affect and influence of a community when individuals work together.
The catered, open-bar reception is to be a haven for Brazier Society members from busy, noisy crowds – offering a warm, friendly environment in which to soak in the glowing ambiance. Volunteers assist in managing this reception by welcoming guests, promoting interesting and attractive raffle prizes, managing the schedule of coveted boat rides, and assuring this exclusive experience is one to be remembered. Brazier Society members are significant supporters of local arts and WaterFire. Volunteers working within this reception should be aware of the great potential of our guests, and present WaterFire in the warmest light.
WaterFire’s “set” is constructed starting at 6:00 am each event day morning – but what goes up on an event day must come down on that event day. The “Strike” team of volunteers assists with the breakdown of WaterFire at the conclusion of every event. Volunteers join forces with WaterFire staff to disassemble receptions and electrical setups, haul trash, park boats, and other important details. This task is not complete until the last truck leaves the park, and sometimes ends as late as 4:30 the following morning. Volunteers are not required to stay for the entirety of this shift, but many hands make light work! Any help offered for this challenge is greatly appreciated.
Additional Volunteer Activities
Every fire, WaterFire burns thousands of logs to feed the flames of the event. Wood boats magically disappear underneath bridges and reappear with a boat full of logs restocked from a bay underneath. With our events often in rapid succession during the season, we need the help of our volunteers to attend “Woodpile Workouts” to keep up in restocking these bays underneath the City’s bridges. Typically on the Wednesdays and Saturdays in-between lightings, volunteers load and take a wood boat out into the river to reload the bays. Bayed wood is also dry wood, keeping our fires burning brightly during the events.
WaterFire has many moving parts and special projects that help to make every event a little different than the last. To help bring that individual touch to each event, we need the help of our volunteers assisting us at as we prepare materials. Tasks include easy projects like preparing critical fuse material that light WaterFire to projects that require some problem solving and special skill sets such as boat building and molding. Staff is always on hand to help you learn a new skill, and most projects can be completed by any and all that are willing.
As we are always trying something new and exploring new ways of doing things, we often involve our volunteers in special projects. These projects can occur at the WaterFire office, at home, or at our production space.