Guest op-ed from Crystal Schrader, the County Chair of the Warren County Democrats.
With Warren County starting to trend more Republican over the past few years, the Warren County Democrats realized that we needed to start bringing new people into the party and re-engage those whose enthusiasm had faded. While we still had folks coming to our yearly events (Presidents’ Day Soup Supper, Summer Picnic, County Fair Booth, Fall Dinner, and multiple parades), we tended to see the same faces over and over again.
When I took over the reigns as County Chair, I shared my desire to make our meetings and events safe spaces where we could try new things. Instead of relying primarily on the Executive Committee of the county party to take the lead on organizing activities and events, I wanted to turn over the leadership to anyone who had an idea. If an idea succeeded, great! If not, we would evaluate to see what we could learn from the experience and move on, without any condemnation or blame.
One person had an idea of creating a donkey mascot for the Warren County Democrats, something he had done with a different county party a while back. He brought his idea to the group and immediately found support. Over the course of several months, we came up with a design, found a cheap pattern, got someone to sew the body of the costume (think of a fuzzy onesie), and found a donkey head that looked like Donkey from Shrek. During one Central Committee meeting, the group offered and voted on a name for the Donkey.
At the last parade of 2019, our mascot made his debut. Donkey high-fived and danced with the kids along the parade route. The children loved it! We got great publicity and had lots of fun. We look forward to having the mascot join us in all the parades this year.
To help us get out in more parts of the county, people looked for community events. Milo holds a huge 4th of July celebration where we walk in the parade. However, this past year a group of folks set up an informational booth in the midst of all the festive activities. People in the town stopped by to learn more about us and to register to vote.
In the fall, we collaborated with the Latino Caucus of the Iowa Democratic Party and several presidential campaigns to have a presence at the first inaugural Norwalk Hometown Pride event. While the city ended up deciding not to have any political groups participate, we have everything in place to take the idea to another town.
In light of the coronavirus, we will continue to brainstorm and implement new ways to reach out and connect with people. Instead of being bummed that we can’t physically come together in large groups, we can look at this time as an opportunity to try some novel and creative outreach initiatives. I can’t wait to see what fun ways we can find to build our Democratic Party and keep people politically active. If you have some ideas you’d like to share, you can send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
by Crystal Schrader, County Chair of the Warren County Democrats