A few minutes with Kirby Jambon _lowres

Advocate staff photo by BRYAN TUCK -- Festival International de Louisiane Volunteer of the Year Kirby Jambon.

POSITION: French immersion teacher at Prairie Elementary.

AGE: 51.

Kirby Jambon was recently presented with Festival International de Louisiane’s David Lofton Volunteer of the Year Award for his 18 years of service to the Lafayette music and arts festival. Jambon coordinates the volunteers who serve as stage announcers, including coordinating French immersion students to present at the festival’s two children’s stages.

How did you become involved with Festival International?

I knew one of the volunteers in charge of the festival presenters, and she asked me to be a presenter and announcer. I was looking at that time for a way to volunteer. That kind of just fell in my lap because it was something I really felt good doing and I didn’t mind being on stage and I was bilingual, so it fit in well. Festival was actually one of the reasons I came to Lafayette. The year after I moved here, I started volunteering. Other than being a French immersion teacher, it was one of my top reasons to move to Lafayette — to go to Festival. Prior to that, I was living in New Orleans.

What has your role been at Festival since you began volunteering?

For several years, I was a bilingual presenter and announcer, and I eventually became the one who coordinates all the presenters and announcers. I’ve been doing that for at least 10 years now. It’s at least 40 presenters, sometimes as many as 50. We start working on it at the beginning of the year. It’s a lot of work prior to Festival. At Festival, I just have to be there to make sure everyone shows up in their spots. That’s the fun part — I get to be at Festival the whole time. It’s a great way to volunteer. You get to meet a lot of people, and it’s really good as a French immersion teacher. Some of my students start out presenting at the children’s stages. Years later, in high school and college, they become presenters on the big stages.

What keeps you coming back each year?

The festival itself is what keeps me coming back. Not only is it a terrific amount of fun — I mean, people from all walks of life come together. It’s a very friendly atmosphere. We get exposed to music and cultures from around the world, and we get to show off our own local culture. It’s a wonderful experience. Even if I wasn’t doing this, I would certainly be doing some other sort of volunteering for Festival because it means so much to me.

How did it feel to be recognized as Volunteer of the Year?

It was such a surprise. It’s an honor. They surprised me in my classroom. They came in with cameras and tons of people. I didn’t realize what was going on. It’s something I was not ever expecting. I know there’s so many hard-working volunteers with this organization. To be honored for something that you love doing, it’s really great. It takes over 2,000 volunteers to get this thing running.

What’s your favorite part about Festival?

One favorite part — that’s hard to say. I think, for me, it’s just the people. It’s seeing some people I might only see at Festival and then meeting new people. It’s the human element.

Annie Ourso is an intern reporter with The Acadiana Advocate.