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North Omaha gets geared up for voter drive

One was a South High senior with deep dimples and a smile that could light a Christmas tree.

Another was a tall 20-year-old man wearing long sleeves, long basketball shorts and tall socks in the hot summer sun.

A third was a 44-year-old great-aunt snuggling a 6-week-old terrier pup with no name.

They all registered to vote Saturday at a family-oriented festival at north Omaha's Fontenelle Park that drew an all-ages crowd. An army of green shirt-wearing registrants cajoled friends and convinced others to take a few minutes to register.

Voter registration was just part of the free event. Other activities included a half-dozen inflatable bouncers for children, 3-on-3 basketball games and a hot dog-and-chips meal.

One highlight was the local rap group Wi$eGuyz which, with D.O.C. Productions and New World Youth Development, organized Saturday's event in the park.

Rapper Geoff Davis, a 22-year-old business student at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, said he conceived of the event six months ago as a way to unify north Omahans around something positive.

Looking at the clusters of people relaxing and enjoying the day, Davis said, he never expected the event "to get this big."

That feeling was echoed by Chris Smith, a paraprofessional at Skinner Magnet Center. Smith noted that north Omaha is unfairly noted for "so much negativity."

"This," he said, taking in the families, the basketball games, the kids bouncing and the teens dancing, "is a beautiful thing here."

The voter drive was led by Project 10,000, which seeks to register 10,000 Douglas County voters. One couldn't walk from the park pavilion, where the hot dogs were served, to the festivities without seeing someone with a clipboard.

Sarahtoga Thomas, the 44-year-old newly registered voter, said she had never voted before because she never thought her opinion counted.

Juanzetta Herron, 37, said she registered after being stopped by one of the Project 10,000 workers.

"I said, 'Will it take a long time?'" Herron said. "She said no, five minutes."

The event also drew politicians. U.S. Rep. Lee Terry was there as well as Anne Boyle, a member of the Nebraska Public Service Commission, and attorney Justin Wayne, a candidate for the new learning community board.

"I think it's great, seeing young people get out," Wayne said. "Even the ones not old enough to vote are starting to engage in the political process."


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