FORT MORGAN — Over 200 volunteers braved cold temperatures and gusty winds to remove litter from the Fort Morgan peninsula. Over half of the volunteers were there thanks to the Hangout Music …
FORT MORGAN — Over 200 volunteers braved cold temperatures and gusty winds to remove litter from the Fort Morgan peninsula. Over half of the volunteers were there thanks to the Hangout Music Festival.
Hangout Music Festival organizers created a new program for the 2023 festival to incentivize interested festival-goers to give back to the local community by volunteering their time. The festival teamed up with the Alabama Coastal Foundation, Fort Morgan Civic Association and Propeller to launch its Earn-A-Ticket Program. Participants who signed up were required to volunteer for Hangout's Beach Clean Up Sunday, March 19. The spots were limited and filled quickly with people wanting to earn a three-day general admission ticket to the 2023 Hangout Music Festival. Through the Propeller platform, participants can discover organizations and learn how to support them and earn points through volunteering. The points can be exchanged for rewards or donations to nonprofits.
Gulf Coast Media visited the Fort Morgan Historical Site, one of four cleanup locations, to speak with volunteers. Some came from as far away as New Orleans, Louisiana, to the west and Fort Walton Beach, Florida, to the east. One group of 18-year-old high school seniors from Mobile were excited to help the environment while earning tickets to their first Hangout Music Festival.
"I think this is a great opportunity especially since it is hard to get tickets to stuff like Hangout Music Festival. You are helping the environment while also getting something cool," said Emily Ammons, who participated with two other friends and seniors from Mary G. Montgomery in Mobile.
"We need to keep the beaches pretty and keep litter out of the water for the animals, and that is why I am here," said Jermaine Frye, 18, of Mobile.
"I am glad I won't have to spend so much money on Hangout Fest tickets, and I am excited to see Red Hot Chili Peppers and Paramore," said Emily Whiddon, 18, of Mobile.
Mark Berte, executive director of the Alabama Coastal Foundation, was on site helping organize volunteers and gave a brief safety talk and guidelines. For over 30 years the ACF has been helping to improve and protect the Alabama coastal environment and has partnered with the Hangout Music Festival since it began.
"We help them (Hangout Music Festival) get their eco team volunteers during the actual festival, but this year they said they wanted to do something special," Berte said. "They asked us to help them organize a cleanup on Fort Morgan. We partnered with the Fort Morgan Civic Association and Fort Morgan Volunteer Fire Department as well as Baldwin Public Works."
Gulf Shores and Orange Beach benefit from a Leave Only Footprints ordinance that uses lodging tax funds to keep the beaches clean.
"Fort Morgan does not have that (Leave Only Footprints), so we try to get volunteers on the peninsula to help clean up," Berte said. "It helps to raise awareness on the peninsula of making sure we have people that are responsible and taking their trash every day. It is a cold day but a good day to clean up our coastal environment."
Volunteers from the Fort Morgan community and Hangout set out with trash pickers, gloves and garbage bags from the Fort Morgan Historical Site at the end of the peninsula to the "Welcome to Fort Morgan" sign. They scoured the beaches, roadside and neighborhoods for litter.
Joe Emerson with the Fort Morgan Civic Association was also on site to hand out maps to teams and give instructions on where to go. He said FMCA is tasked with maintaining and preserving the Fort Morgan peninsula and community. They have been working with the ACF for many years with the Share the Beach program and coastal cleanups.
"When it comes to a cleanup effort, they (ACF) are our first partners. We are glad to have the Hangout on board this year. They are providing some real incentive for volunteers to come out and show out," Emerson said. "Fort Morgan is considered one of the last wild stretches of the Gulf Coast and because of our unique environment and the nature out here, it is so important to try and preserve that. We have a huge volume of visitors and, unfortunately, trash gets spread wherever you have people. It is great to have people in the community willing to come out and put forth an effort to keep the place looking good."
At the end of the day, volunteers from the Fort Morgan community would be going up and down the highway with trucks to pick up the bags and big debris. Hangout volunteers would take photos of their litter haul, check out with organizers and wait for their Hangout Music Festival ticket.