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Joan Marcus, left, and Linda Friedlein, sisters from Willmar, talk Friday about their many years of working as Sonshine volunteer coordinators. Tribune photo by Ron Adams

Sonshine provides different experience to volunteers

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WILLMAR - Linda and Brian Friedlein, of Willmar, have been coordinating Sonshine Music Festival's volunteers for 24 years.

Their job consists of coordinating the 200 to 400 volunteers who stand at the gates, take tickets, assist the vendors in the Willmar Civic Center and direct traffic. Each volunteer works four three-hour shifts over the course of the four days of the festival.

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"We keep coming back because we believe in the festival," Linda Friedlein said. "It does amazing things. We've heard a lot of cool testimonies through the years. It's just a cool thing to be part of."

Brian Friedlein added that they've also always enjoyed the music. Linda Friedlein's sister, Joan Marcus, of Willmar, assists the Friedleins during the festival.

"To be part of something like this is amazing," Marcus said. "To see the ministry that goes on here is wonderful."

The Sonshine Festival is in its 32nd year in Willmar. Located in recent years on the grounds of the Willmar Civic Center and nearby Willmar Senior High School, the Christian music festival draws thousands of people to town over the course of the event.

Linda Friedlein and Marcus said it would be difficult to run Sonshine without the volunteers.

"The volunteers are absolutely crucial," Friedlein said. "We appreciate them tremendously."

Friedlein said she enjoys seeing volunteers come back year after year.

"It's neat to hear the stories of people who are working here now because their lives were changed when they attended Sonshine," she said. "You make that connection with them when they come year after year. But I always look forward to meeting the new volunteers too."

Marcus said the return volunteers have become like old friends.

"You only get to see them once a year, but it's always fun," she said

Julie Norris, of Albany, has been volunteering at Sonshine for 29 years.

"I've been coming since I was a teenager," she said. "It's a family tradition. I raised all my kids coming to Sonshine every year."

Norris was checking tickets at the main gate Friday afternoon with first-time volunteer Tim Figlmiller, of Eau Claire, Wis.

"I heard about it on the radio, and I wanted to be around a lot of people who are praising the Lord," Figlmiller said. "I want to hear people's testimonies and hear about what God has done for them."

Norris said she has come back year after year because she loves Christian music.

"I love God, and I want to be around like-minded people," she said. "I love seeing people here for the first time, and I love talking to anyone I can about God. When you come back year after year, you have a sense of family. You make friends with all these people you work with."

Kimberly Tran, of St. Cloud, was volunteering for her third year in a row at this year's Sonshine, selling merchandise for vendors in the Civic Center.

"It's a good way to meet people," Tran said. "There's such a variety of people here, and I like meeting new people."

Michael Winandy, of Superior, Wis., was volunteering for the first time this year, also selling merchandise.

"I heard about the opportunity and I thought it was a cool thing to do," Winandy said. "I just loved the experience last year, when I came for the first time, and I wanted to give back."

In addition to the volunteers the Friedleins oversee, the medical tent and security team are also fully staffed by about 400 additional volunteers.

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