“You must have been doing this forever.” When Sharon Kirk heard this above the background roar of planes, she knew she had found the perfect volunteer role contributing to the success of Warbirds Over Wanaka International Airshow. She also had a good chuckle since it was her first time volunteering at the event.
Born in Lower Hutt, Sharon has led an interesting life, accumulating not only a flower named after her but also diverse global experiences that allow her to excel as the Aviation and Market Stalls Facilitator for Warbirds.
With her degree in Horticultural Science and Marketing from Massey University, Sharon started in Japan in the cut flower industry (hence the honorary naming) and then moved into fruit and veg exports. Back in Auckland, she met her husband Ross and began a life in Gisborne working in the fruit industry while raising their two children.
Seven years ago they moved to Wanaka and in 2016 launched Hortinvest Management, developing and managing cherry orchards and marketing the fruit internationally. Everyone smiles when they receive cherries providing Sharon the pleasure of exporting that joy around the world.
How does fruit lead to airplanes? Settling into Wanaka, Sharon felt a passion to get out into the amazing community, give back and meet people. Hearing about Warbirds, she applied to volunteer. Their wise management team looked deeply into her background and offered her a role ensuring that exhibitors have everything they need to successfully sell to happy attendees.
Sharon receives a briefing from the Warbirds team who have done all the advance work, then arrives Thursday morning to assist vendors with stall set-up and goes on to manage the area over the 3-day weekend, helping with everything from suggestions on how to increase sales to finding lost kids.
This is where her experience kicks in. “Managing picking season is similar to Warbirds,” says Sharon. “The team does all the lead up, planning, and organisation, then it’s the hectic time where everything is dynamic and you have to fight fires calmly.”
Sharon uses her international people management and marketing skills to improve everyone’s time. “People come from all over New Zealand and the world for the show. I do what I can to ensure vendors and attendees have a great event, return and tell their friends.”
Seeing the airshows, meeting the crews, feeling appreciated and attending the volunteer function are all wonderful, but for Sharon the reward is “the really good feeling at the end - to have done your part is quite exhilarating.”
“I am helping the vendor in the moment but also helping the Warbirds management and by doing that helping the greater community through the enjoyment had and the money spent throughout Central Otago. I’m a small part of the well-oiled machine that drives this multi-layered impact.”
Sharon shares advice to others considering volunteering: “It’s great for the community and great for your soul. You can do any role. You just have to be you and have a willingness to be a part of something bigger.”
Written by Susan Merriman, 2021
Does being involved with a Warbirds Airshow excite you? Recuritment for next year beigs soon - check out their website https://www.warbirdsoverwanaka.com/