Published July 14. 2014 4:00AM
New London - On the city's waterfront Sunday evening, Sailfest was winding down.
Trucks carted off serving trays and pans, vendors scrubbed grills, and workers took down carnival rides and games. Visitors left the area, traveling home with memories of ships and fireworks.
Lingering festival-goers sat in the breeze by the water, as children hopped around on the bleachers remaining from the event.
And for the festival's volunteers - who finished up their final tasks of the three-day festival - it was time to celebrate.
Sailfest's Executive Director Barbara Neff, along with some volunteers, drove up in golf carts - smiling and honking - to the beer tent at Custom House Pier, as the volunteers congregating at the tent cheered.
They toasted the festival over beers and fries, and the more than 20 volunteers went around a circle sharing their happiest memories from the festival. The list included eating deep-fried Oreos, selling out of beef fat fries from The Four Drummies BBQ vendor, running the festival without any security issues, hearing no complaints from vendors and simply being together with one another.
They also offered improvements for next year, if money is no issue: four-wheel drive golf carts, new phones, free french fries all weekend, mandatory vendor meetings and bigger bands.
After the group posed for a photo, Neff said the 30 to 40 volunteers all come into the office and attend planning meetings on their own time. They often take off days from work to set up the festival.
"They're a great team," she said.
Volunteer Anne Ogden, who has contributed for several years, said she enjoys giving back to the community and helping out.
"It really is a team effort," she said.
"It falls right into place. We've got it down to a science - everyone knows their assignment," she added.
Kendra Zaugg, Sailfest's waterfront coordinator, agreed, saying the cleanup happened very quickly.
"We all just chip in," she said.
Catherine Ward, an intern who will be a senior at Waterford High School in the fall, said she originally wanted to be a nurse, but discovered her love for business while working in Neff's office. She said she enjoys the networking and marketing that helps draw thousands to the festival.
"It's absolutely amazing how many people come to the event and see the hard work Barbara does all year," she said.
"It's not just me," Neff added, standing on the pier surrounded by volunteers.