Arts & Entertainment, Nonprofits, and Travel & Tourism

LaughFest calls for volunteers

January 27, 2017
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Gilda's LaughFest stage and microphone
Gilda's LaughFest is a 10-day comedy festival across the Grand Rapids area produced by the nonprofit Gilda's Club Grand Rapids, which offers free emotional health care programs to those dealing with cancer or grief. Photo via

The city’s 10-day festival of comedy needs some help getting the event off the ground.

Gilda’s LaughFest representatives said this month that those interested in volunteering during the March 9-19 festival in Grand Rapids can sign up online.

Available positions include event promotion, logistics, ushering, selling merchandise, retail, office support and staffing during all of LaughFest’s events.

The festival requires between 750 and 1,200 volunteers each year.

The deadline to register is Jan. 31.

New volunteers are expected to attend an orientation meeting. Depending on which roles they sign up for, volunteers may be required to attend a training meeting, and all volunteers will be required to attend the pre-festival meeting. Multiple dates and times will be available in February for each training session. Dates for the sessions depend on which team volunteers sign up for.


Joanne Roehm, LaughFest festival director, said there will be a few perks for volunteers.

“All of the volunteers get a LaughFest volunteer T-shirt, and we have a volunteer incentive program where they will be able to earn prizes and raffle tickets,” she said.

Roehm said volunteers should sign up with a clear understanding of what will be required of them.

“If volunteers are looking to see a show, volunteering is not the right thing for them to do, because we keep them pretty busy throughout the festival,” she said. “If they want to see a show, they should buy a ticket.”

Leslee Hardebeck, who has volunteered since the first festival in 2011, said she believes in the importance of the cancer and grief support programs offered through Gilda’s Club Grand Rapids, which is a nonprofit.

“I volunteer because I’m passionate about what Gilda's Club offers members on their cancer or grief journey,” she said. “I love working with so many wonderful volunteers, and I love to laugh, which there is plenty of during LaughFest.”


Headliners announced for LaughFest 2017 include Howie Mandel, Iliza, Sinbad, Joel McHale, Kevin Heffernan, Steve Lemme and Pete Holmes. Katt Williams, in partnership with Smash Productions, will headline an encore performance on March 26.


Ticket packages and badges are available online or by phone at (616) 735-4242.

Individual tickets will be available beginning today at the Van Andel Arena and DeVos Place box offices or at


Gilda’s LaughFest was created by a team at Gilda’s Club Grand Rapids in 2011.

Since its inception, LaughFest has averaged about 50,000 attendees per year.

Proceeds from the festival support the free cancer, grief and emotional health programs offered through Gilda’s Club Grand Rapids.

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