Photograph by John Nickerson

I have just begun my sixth year with WaterFire, and it started at a true time of need. In November of 2014 I was laid off by my employer of 30 years and I found myself with too much time on my hands and feeling bad about my prospects. I saw an advertisement for WaterFire Volunteers and I thought, why not?  I attended the first Captain’s training and found I really liked the idea of being part of something special. I met some great people and we were able to grow together through our WaterFire experience. The staff and other volunteer Captains welcomed us and taught us what WaterFire was really about and how much of an impact it has on the community.

I came to realize that WaterFire filled an empty space for me when I really needed it. I made friends, who I still remain close with and met others that have come and gone, but still were able to share their knowledge and experience with me. While WaterFire is a very moving experience, it is the people who make the artwork. The boundless energy and enthusiasm everyone brings is contagious and everyone wants each performance to be something special. During my years I have been a crew member, a First Mate, and a Captain. In the off season I was able to work with the Operations staff and I learned how much really happens in the background that most people don’t know about.  The staff is remarkable. They have a very complicated, detailed, and demanding process and yet they are able to keep everything very organized from one event to the next. They make it seem easy, but believe me, it’s not! The aura of the WaterFire experience keeps people coming back and the friendships and camaraderie keeps the volunteers coming back.

There is no better experience and I’m proud to be part of such a wonderful organization. During this trying time WaterFire makes us realize that it is such a huge part of our lives. Right now, the boats are not on the river and the fires do not burn. Yet, the volunteers and the staff reach out and support each other and give us hope for the future. There is strength in family and that is what we are.

– Russ Cooney