Arizona man volunteers for Lighthouse Festival

By Sara Bruestle | Aug 20, 2014
Merrill Petterson

There is one Mukilteo Lighthouse Festival Association volunteer who doesn’t even live here.

Merrill Petterson, 68, lives in Avondale, Ariz., but drives up to Mukilteo the day the temperature climbs up to 100 degrees in Arizona. The average there is 104 degrees in the summer.

Petterson has been a “fair-weather bird” – as opposed to “snowbirds” who go to Arizona for the winter – and has escaped the heat of the summer since he retired 10 years ago.

He doesn’t go to Mukilteo to vacation, but to volunteer. In fact, wherever he goes, he volunteers – for festivals, churches, relays, car shows and other events.

“I just volunteer forever, wherever I go,” Petterson said, adding that he’s volunteered all over for more than 40 years. “You can call me a ‘traveling volunteer.’ I don’t have any moss on me.”

He’s also stayed in a motorhome in Edmonds, Shoreline, Everett and Arlington over the years, but he soon found that he likes Mukilteo the best.

So Petterson, who grew up in Washington, sold his motorhome and now rents a home on Mukilteo Boulevard for about six months of the year. He likes to think of himself as a summer Mukiltean.

“I found the people in Mukilteo so compelling and friendly,” he said. “I just decided, ‘Hey, why not.’

“I just love Mukilteo. I love the park. This is as peaceful as it gets. It is really nice coming down to the Mukilteo beach. It’s one of the nicest places.”

He was drawn to Mukilteo Lighthouse Park when he arrived here. It was then that he found out about the three-day Lighthouse Festival, to be held this year on Sept. 5-7 at the park.

Since he’s a volunteer, that’s just what he did.

He signed up to volunteer in the beer garden and at the information booth at the Lighthouse Festival, as well as for Run-A-Muk, a 10K/5K race on Aug. 23 that kicks off the festival.

“I can do anything to help at the festival,” he said. “I’ll have several jobs.”

Jim Goettler, executive director of the Lighthouse Festival Association, said Petterson is a festival director’s “dream come true.”

“Merrill is someone who honestly enjoys helping bring a community event to life,” Goettler said. “[He] deeply enjoys working with other people, visiting with them and telling amazing stories as he works with other volunteers.”

Petterson also has helped with the Mukilteo Car Show and National Night Out. He’s also a volunteer at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church, close to his rental home.

Already this year, he’s handed out fliers and brochures, filled information packets and goodie bags, brewed up cups of free coffee, served dinner and then washed the dirty dishes, and brainstormed T-shirt slogans.

He goes to events in Arlington, Burlington, Everett, Marysville, Sultan, Gold Bar, Edmonds, Shoreline and Clinton and hands out 300 fliers at a time. He also leaves flyers and brochures in the break rooms of businesses.

“I give everybody a flier – a ‘friendly reminder’ – and I invite them to our festival,” Petterson said. “Not one single person refused. They gladly take it.

“We go down to visit theirs, so they can come up to visit ours.”

Petterson also volunteers at home in Arizona or on his way to and from Mukilteo. He has helped put on Ragnar overnight relay races for six years and, so far, has volunteered for the Buckeye Air Fair in Arizona for two years.

He has also stopped in Salt Lake City twice to volunteer at a festival at Good News Church, and this year helped out in the pits at Seafair in Seattle.

Why does Petterson volunteer everywhere he goes? It makes him happy.

“It’s just exciting to meet people and do work and have it go for a good cause,” Petterson said. “Especially the Mukilteo Lighthouse Festival.”

The Mukilteo Lighthouse Festival Association needs more volunteers for this year’s festival.

Help set up the festival on Friday, Sept. 5, and break it down on Sunday, Sept. 7. Other opportunities include working at the information booth, greeting visitors and directing traffic.

“Volunteers are not only important to the Lighthouse Festival – they are absolutely essential,” Goettler said.

“Volunteering is a lot of fun – you’ll meet some fascinating people and get a behind-the-scenes view of the Lighthouse Festival – something you will never forget.”

If you’d like to volunteer, or for more information, call 425-353-5516 or email Volunteers must be 18 or older.

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