COLUMBIA — Volunteers clearing snow outside venues for the upcoming True/False Film Fest have coined a nickname:
"We are calling ourselves the 'I Dig True/False' weather team," said Josh Oxenhandler, shovel in hand as he helped clear outside the Ragtag Cinema on Hitt Street on Tuesday afternoon.
The recent snowstorms are a hurdle in getting the venues set up for the annual documentary film festival, but so far the weather has not altered the schedule or dramatically changed travel plans. The festival begins Thursday evening and runs through Sunday.
Oxenhandler, who is in charge of special operations for the festival, was among more than a dozen volunteers clearing snow from around Ragtag at Hitt and Cherry streets, the True/False box office at 1020 E. Broadway, The Tiger Hotel at Cherry and Eighth streets and the alleys in the area.
"The alleys serve as a highway between The Tiger Hotel, box office and Ragtag Cinema," Oxenhandler said. "We want to make it a safe environment."
David Wilson, a festival co-founder, said the production team continues to set up chairs, risers, venue decorations and sound and projection systems. "Now they have to do it in six inches of deep slush puddles," Wilson said.
It was uncertain Tuesday whether the Great Wall, which is a short-film screening projected on an outer wall of the Missouri United Methodist Church, and the many outdoor art and design installations would be in jeopardy because of the weather, said Hannah Carlson, press liaison for the festival.
Carlson said she does not have too many concerns about participants' travel plans getting stalled. She said that a lot of people are flying to St. Louis and that it's not quite as bad there.
"The major concern is getting people to Columbia and into the venues which are currently snowed in," Carlson said.
Wilson said they have had to reschedule flights for people coming in early. "But most of the people are coming in on Thursday and Friday," he said.
The True/False team has experience with unexpected interruptions during the festival.
"One year there was a tornado warning," Wilson recalled. "Another year, there was a huge snowstorm in New York, where a lot of people are coming from. It sent our travel people into a 24-hour frenzy of phones and computers trying to reroute people."
Wilson sees the volunteers' pulling together as "proof positive of the incredible support and energy for making stuff happen. We put the word out to our volunteers and got an overwhelming response from people willing to help shovel the snow. It makes me really proud."
Supervising editor is Elizabeth Brixey.