By Tom Emmott

It is 7:30 a.m. I enter the side door to begin a 16-hour day. The hallways are somewhat darkened. I am the only one here except for the amazing Albert., our custodian. I turn on some lights and enter the volunteer Green Room, where I drop my backpack next to the refrigerator. I sit for a few minutes and sip my take-out coffee from Oryana and then head back to the side door to begin setting up. This is my post. My assignment this year — Hospitality Manager. And I am loving it.

As I return to the concession area 20 minutes later, the bees are buzzing. The hive is humming. Coming to life! Popcorn is popping. Coolers are being stocked. Tables are being wiped down and an assortment of goodies are being placed on them. Nearby, the merchandise tables are being stocked. It’s automatic. It’s an annual affair. Even the “newbies” fall into step and the hive buzzes.

This is Lars Hockstad Auditorium, where I just completed my fifth year of volunteering. As I walk back to our Green Room I see Tom and Allison and Karle and Willie and Lauren and Gail and David. All managers. All family! A family that has grown together over the years. There is young James, the 13-year-old nephew of Karle, now in his third year. In other years there has been Matthew. There is John, who manages the balcony. His granddaughter Kily assists him and along with Mark also tends to the VIP Green Room in the backstage area. More family! A loving and caring family who get the job done under any circumstances — and there can be circumstances. But the hive keeps buzzing!

No one panics because we are the Lars Family. We communicate in person and on our headsets. We are always aware of what’s happening. We call it a well-oiled machine. We have fun. We like one another. We enjoy what we do, otherwise why would we put in the long hours? And — we love movies and that’s what this is all about. The movies and the moviegoers. We host Friends Night and Volunteer Movie Night, which add more days to our schedule. But we don’t mind. We are Lars!

It’s 11:30 p.m. as I leave the auditorium. I feel a sense of guilt since there are other managers who have not yet left. I calculate the sleep hours in my head — 61/2? Not bad if it works out that way. It never does. But then — the others are in the same situation. No matter. We will go out again the next day and get it done as usual. We are the Lars Family.

About the author: Tom Emmott is a professional actor who lives in Traverse City. He has volunteered exclusively at Lars Hockstad Auditorium for the past five years. He is an avid movie buff. He looks forward to the 10th Traverse City Film Festival next year.

About the forum: The forum is a periodic column of opinion written by Record-Eagle readers in their areas of expertise. Submissions of 500 words or less may be made by e-mailing Please include biographical information and a photo.

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