A key volunteer helps bring life to the operations behind Brandon’s Novemberfest

Greg Harrell relishes his role as operations manager at Nativity Catholic Church’s annual festival
Novemberfest Chairman R.J. Brauneker, on the left, and operations director Greg Harrell take a break from their respective responsibilities to pose for a photo together. Brauneker believes Harrell?s overall demeanor embodies what the event is all about: fun, family and faith. Photo courtesy of R.J. Brauneker
Novemberfest Chairman R.J. Brauneker, on the left, and operations director Greg Harrell take a break from their respective responsibilities to pose for a photo together. Brauneker believes Harrell?s overall demeanor embodies what the event is all about: fun, family and faith. Photo courtesy of R.J. Brauneker
Published November 12 2018
Updated November 12 2018

BRANDON — He’s good natured, he’s a peacemaker and an all-around great guy who generates loads of love.

Greg Harrell, the man who oversees operations for Nativity Catholic Church’s Novemberfest draws such praise while feverishly working to help stage one of Brandon’s biggest annual events.

Months of planning have gone into the popular family-friendly festival, which runs from Wednesday (Nov. 14) to Sunday (Nov. 18) and expects to top more than 100,000 attendees, and Harrell has been on of the people at the center of the work.

“There is no way I could do it by myself. I have a great ‘ops’ team of volunteers,” said Harrell, who began volunteering for Novemberfest when his two daughters Emily and Leah, now 21 and 18, were students at Nativity Catholic School.

The school, located adjacent to the church at , serves as the beneficiary of proceeds raised during the event. It relies almost solely only volunteers like Harrell who often have to endure stringent timelines and unforeseen stumbling blocks that can cause stress.

Harrell, friends say, remains undeterred by the demands.

“Greg lets everything roll off his back and he’s good at putting out fires,” said fellow volunteer Sherry Stewart.

While Stewart oversees the purchasing and preparation of the food sold during the five-day event, Harrell’s role consists of searching out and securing contracts from a multitude of vendors whose wares and services are crucial to the affair’s overall execution and wellbeing – items like port-a-johns, cardboard trash containers and electrical hook-ups.

Plus, he secured the hard-to-find 110-by-180 foot tent that’s new to the event this year.

What’s more, he’s responsible for the setup of such equipment in addition to acquiring and installing an extensive amount of electrical cords and outlets used for various purposes throughout the site.

The event also counts on Harrell to fix any mechanical glitches that may pop up.

Harrell, an agent for Florida Farm Bureau Insurance, said faith and friendships made at the carnival motivated him to continue volunteering and to take on a lead role in Novemberfest about five years ago

“Greg is very outgoing and he has respect for everybody,” said his wife Ginny Harrell, who also noted her husband’s dedication to doing the best job possible to prepare for and help prevent any problems that could arise.

In addition, Ginny Harrell cited one more reason she thinks he’s well suited for the festival’s key position.

In the days leading up to the event he’s willing to arrive before sunrise at his job so that he’s able to leave in the late afternoon before sundown and tend to his responsibilities at the site.

“There is nothing he can’t fix or do,” Ginny Harrell said of her husband.

Event chairman R.J. Brauneker is also quick to give kudos to its operations leader, who is also a good friend.

In Brauneker’s view, Novemberfest is much more than a five-day event for Greg Harrell, in that his involvement spans the entire year.

“When he’s not setting up everything under the big tent he can be seen picking up new equipment, working on contracts with vendors, recruiting new sponsors or volunteers, and the list goes on and on,” Brauneker said.

“Greg’s enthusiasm is contagious as he truly embodies everything that Novemberfest is all about: fun, family and faith.”

Contact Joyce McKenzie at [email protected]

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