Organization & position: Town of Cary Festivals Coordinator
Education: University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, journalism major
Accolades: Certified festival and event planner through N.C. Association of Festivals and Events
Hometown: Sanford, N.C.
Family: Husband Shelton, and Welsh springer spaniel Sophie
First job: Editorial assistant for American National Biography
First job out of college: Editorial-turned-marketing position working on science and medical journals at Oxford University Press
Fun fact: Ennis lives in a house divided. Her husband attended N.C. State and is now a die-hard fan. His grandfather was a scorekeeper there for 54 years.
If Joy Ennis does her job right, you’ll never notice she exists.
As festivals coordinator for the Town of Cary, Ennis directs hundreds of artists, volunteers, staff and public works employees to produce Cary’s signature annual event, the Lazy Daze Arts & Crafts Festival, and its sister event, Spring Daze. So why does she hope to fly under the radar?
Festival-goers only notice the infrastructure of an event when it’s bad, she says. Her job is taking care of “the stuff they don’t see,” down to the small details.
“If there’s not a trash can where they need it, they’ll notice. But if there is, they don’t even think about it,” she said.
Of course, trash cans are just the tip of the iceberg. Ensuring a diverse selection of concessions, developing an emergency evacuation plan, booking entertainers, coordinating hundreds of artists from across the United States and managing a team of scores of volunteers are all in a day’s work.
Then there’s the task of keeping the festivals fun and exciting.
“We try to add a bit of pizzazz” each year, Ennis said. This year, an aerialist performer added a new type of visual art into the day’s activities.
When Ennis ran her first Lazy Daze in 2002, she wasn’t even the coordinator yet. Taking an interim post when the prior coordinator left in June, she ran the August festival without knowing exactly what she was getting herself into.
“Your first time through, you have no idea what is about to hit you,” she said. “A little naiveté is a good thing.”
She stuck with the coordinator role, and has been running the duo of arts festivals — and then some — ever since. In fact, she had a hand in 22 events last year, from road races to the new car show, Wheels on Academy.
Such a gamut of events means each day on the job is exciting and new. In some cases, very new.
“You don’t know what you don’t know,” Ennis said. “Planning a car show is hard because there’s such a culture to it that I didn’t know anything about.”
Going forward, Ennis will work with a recently hired downtown program specialist to encourage people to visit the revamped downtown throughout the year.
Although Ennis says she often can’t believe she gets paid to have as much fun as she does at work, she has hit a few bumps along the way. In 2011, Lazy Daze was canceled due to Hurricane Irene.
“I try to keep my happy face on, but there were some tears that year,” she said. “When we had to cancel because of the hurricane, it was awful and I thought I was going to flip out.”
Oddly enough, one of her most treasured festival experiences originated from amid the sadness. The Festivals Committee, consisting of community and Town of Cary staff members who oversee the major planning decisions, took the cancellation head-on.
“This is my favorite memory: the way the committee handled the cancellation with our artists. It was very thoughtful,” she said. Members elected to allow accepted artists to return the following year, extending personal phone calls to inform them.
“We are very proud of that customer service part of it,” she added. “It’s good old Southern hospitality.”
And it keeps artists knocking on her proverbial door. This year, she received 625 applications for 380 spots at Lazy Daze.
When she’s not scheduling bus shuttles or recruiting chainsaw sculptors, Ennis takes the arts into her own hands. She relaxes by making mixed media works that combine painting and collage.
“I like to incorporate things I find in the woods – natural objects like grasses or tissue paper or leaves,” she said. “I have them hanging up all over my house.”
Previously, she spent 10 years as administrative coordinator for the Cary Children’s Concert Choir and worked with Cary Youth Chorale, embracing her love of music. She and her husband now devote one Sunday a month to ushering at Hope Chapel church in Apex, where they met through a Bible study friend in 2006.
Their dog, Sophie, follows them wherever possible.
“She goes to the beach with us and goes swimming with us,” Ennis said. “She has wormed herself into my heart.”