Bob Mills
Paul Wellman

Nothing’s quite as nice as watching your favorite rock band on a warm summer night with a cold cup of fine draft beer in hand. At the Santa Barbara Bowl, such pleasures wouldn’t be possible were it not for a legion of 50 or so volunteers who come from near and far to pour your ales—all for a chance to soak up the vibes, spot some rock stars, and take home a bounty of gracious tips.

“A lot of my employees don’t even go up to watch the show,” said Bob Mills, who has run the concessions at the Bowl for 11 years and gets his volunteers almost entirely through word of mouth. “They just love the atmosphere of the people in the plaza. I have young people who work who love music and love to be there,” said Mills, “and there are volunteers who have been there longer than I have. It’s really great work.”

That’s largely due to the scene that Mills sets. “I instigate a lot of fun,” he admitted. “When everyone is having fun, the tips are better.” On a bad night with little beer flowing and wine pouring, each volunteer can take home less than $25. But on good nights, the sky’s the limit, said Mills, who recalls one Jack Johnson show that brought in about $125 for each volunteer.

But for Mills, the real prize is working with his fun, energetic, and excited volunteers. “It’s just a wonderful thing to be part of the excitement of the Santa Barbara Bowl.”


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