There is no exact count of how many people attended this year’s Havelock Chili Festival.

There is no exact count of how many people attended this year’s Havelock Chili Festival. It’s hard to figure out. After all, admission is free.

Sure, a guess can be made based on the amount of chili cups that are sold and the amount of chicken wings that are eaten, but some may attend and have just one bowl of chili while others may fill up on multiple servings.

Either way, even a conservative estimate, would put the two-day total at around 20,000 people. Some may not see it as that way, but remember, the festival goes on for four hours on Friday night and eight hours on Saturday, so a lot of the crowd comes and goes. There are never 20,000 people at Walter B. Jones Park at any one time.

So what does it take to serve 20,000 people? For the Havelock Chili Festival, it’s a core group of dedicated volunteers. Without them, the event simply doesn’t happen.

The Havelock Chamber of Commerce is the sponsor of the event, which raises money for area nonprofit organizations.

However, the committee that organizes the event is comprised of volunteers. That’s right, these folks are not paid to put on the event. They simply do it because they love Havelock and want to contribute to the community.

The process of putting on the festival takes about 10 months, with the first meetings taking place in January. From those early meetings, the work begins to grow. Everything from the entertainment and vendors to trash cans and portable toilets are handled by the volunteers.

As the event draws closer — with big pushes for cooks and vendors coming in August and September — these volunteers basically become full-time workers. They must organize everything, from the times the bands take the stage to the layout of the festival grounds and what group occupies what space.

And then during the festival, they are constantly on the move. They hold meetings for the competing cooks to make sure they all understand the rules. They make sure the cooks have what they need and are constantly running supplies such as cups, napkins and gloves to the booths.

They have to make sure the vendors have what they need. And if there’s a full trash can, they empty it.

It’s not glorious work, but it’s work that’s needed to make the Havelock Chili Festival a success.

“I am especially grateful to the volunteers of the Havelock Chili Festival that, despite their day jobs, have put in the extra hours over the weekends and over the weeknights to come together and bring this event together,” said Bruce Fortin, director of the Havelock Chamber of Commerce. “They truly deserve the credit for organizing, keeping everything stocked, for running around, so we could not have done this without them and they truly are some of the stellar members of our community that highlight what Havelock brings.”

While it may be hard to figure out the exact number of people attended the festival, it’s not hard to figure out why it’s a success — a group of volunteers who want nothing more than to help Havelock put its best foot forward. You have our thanks.