A music festival promoting Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders drew a huge crowd in Orlando Saturday night, mixing a rock concert atmosphere with a final push to draw votes for Sanders before Tuesday’s primary.
Christened “Bernie Fest,” the event drew a varied crowd of people of all races, ages and orientations, some clad in collared shirts and slacks and others with dyed hair and tattoos. People drank beer, ate enchiladas and hot dogs and listened to live rock, punk and electronic music until 3 a.m. outside local venues Spacebar and Sandwich Bar.
Volunteers from the Sanders campaign, Knights for Bernie and the Young Democrats of Orange County accepted donations for the candidate and helped people register to vote properly on Tuesday.
Bernie Fest was put on by local community organization Body//Talk. They were represented by Phil Santos at the event, who described the intent as a way to return a kind of social commentary to the music scene he felt had been lost since the 1960s — it was about “bringing politics and social change into a musical environment,” he said, as well as getting the word out for people to vote for Sanders.
“Often people are into the idea of voting, but they won’t do it until one of their friends brings it up,” he said. “The whole idea of being here in a party atmosphere is that you’re having fun and creating a political memory not shrouded in guilt, or sacrifice. We’re partying for Bernie Sanders.”
Volunteers came out from the Sanders Campaign HQ, which opened up a week ago at 1200 E. Hillcrest Street — a humble office where, according to volunteer Anna Turner, “it’s all grassroots — we’re just on old 1990s flip phones making phone calls.”
Turner said she admired Sanders’ dedication to honest politicking and not taking donations from wealthy contributors. That, she said, reflected the views of many Sanders supporters as well, showing that they wanted a kind of politics that helped everyone rather than just a few people.
“I’m really more of a collectivist than an individualist,” she said. “I believe in helping your neighbor. We’re all in this together. Each little neighborhood is like a microcosm. You can consider the U.S. a microcosm, so we should be helping each other out, and making a place as a collective U.S. in the global economy.”
Fellow volunteer Mark Wazhowiak said the Sanders movement was about “love, not hate.” He said Sanders had “spoken to every group of people out there” at his recent Kissimmee rally — Hispanics, African Americans, Puerto Ricans and more, he said. He also spoke highly of Sanders’ position on climate change.
“I have a new granddaughter,” Wazhowiak said. “I’m thinking of the future of the planet, the future generations, and what’s the best for every person and not just one group of people.”