Applefest: More than Apples

October 17, 2016

–By Erin Grunze–

It would be understandable after three months of touring the state that we would have some fatigue and feel a little low on energy. It’s also understandable to want to disengage from all the negativity surrounding the Presidential race when we get tunnel vision and focus on just one race. But the fatigue and desire to disengage quickly dissipates when as part of Gear Up To Vote we arrive to a new event and partner with a local League like the League of Women Voters in the Ashland Bayfield area. The members of Ashland Bayfield are preparing and energizing their local citizens to vote. The League regularly hosts community events and connects with students at the local technical college and area high schools. Gear Up To Vote was fortunate to be invited to Applefest in Bayfield - one of the largest and best Apple Festivals in the US.

Our booth was located along a busy streets of the festival. We were near handmade clothing vendors and a Wisconsin cheesemaker. The smells of apple baked goods filled the air. The festival attracts many visitors from all over the midwest. We had folks from all over Wisconsin stop by as well as voters from Minnesota and Michigan. We even had a past President of the Minnesota League of Women Voters come by our booth to cheer on our work. Voters from many communities had good questions for us including how to vote absentee, how to register to vote, how to contact their local clerk, and how to join the League. By the end of the Festival, four more members had joined the Ashland Bayfield League!

I always enjoy talking with local League members at the Gear Up events. But one thing not all the Gear Up events have was the highlight of the Applefest event — the Grand Parade. On Sunday, Melanie Ramey and I were able to drive the Gear Up To Vote van while a dozen Leaguers walked along side. We were also joined by a few local Girl Scout Daisies and their moms and aunts. All the women and girls representing the League handed out Gear Up to Vote voter information cards, “Future Voter” stickers for kids, and, of course, candy. I underestimated the numbers who would gather for the parade and the candy was out before we were halfway through the parade. The marching bands were loud. The crowd was enthusiastic. Parade goers cheered the League. The Applefest parade and event were what I needed for the long drive back home - a special community activity that felt unifying and hopeful.