Bipartisan bash in North Stonington to urge voting, raise money for Hewitt Farm

North Stonington — This weekend, bipartisanship is synonymous with fun.

The Republican and Democratic town committees have joined together to plan "Party with the Parties" from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday at Hewitt Farm — an event meant to register and encourage would-be voters and to raise money for a pavilion on Hewitt Farm. The rain date is Sunday.

Organizers have coordinated food, live music, a silent auction, canoes and kayaks, games for kids, a firetruck tour and hayrides. Guests will have the opportunity to meet gubernatorial candidates (Ned Lamont will "try to be there," according to Co-Chairman Bill Ricker) and candidates in the 18th state Senate District and the 43rd House District. In addition, U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, is aiming to be at Hewitt Farm by 2:30. 

"... With the divisiveness in state and national politics, our small New England town is joining the hands of the two major parties to agree on the need for our public to improve voter registration and getting out to vote when called upon, all through a town-wide family fun event," Ricker wrote in an email.

There are 4,229 registered voters in North Stonington. For the town's recent vote on the 2018-19 budget, 775 voters turned out, compared to 578 for last year's initial budget vote. North Stonington was one of two Connecticut towns that had a lower voter turnout in the 2016 election versus 2012, making for a 1.9 percent decrease.

Attendees will be asked to sign a card pledging to vote in all town elections and referendums and promising to urge five other people to vote. Ricker said the pledge cards will aid organizers when making phone calls to potential voters.

North Stonington Democratic Committee Chair Toula Balestracci said that the Republican and Democratic parties have a common goal of "encouraging community involvement."  

"Whether it's through voter registration or getting people to join boards and committees," Balestracci wrote in a Facebook message, "it isn't about the two parties, it's about what's best for the town."

Chelsea Groton Bank, Gourmet Gallery and Jonathan Edwards Winery are among those that have offered to help.

As for the pavilion, the goal is to raise at least $3,000 toward its construction. The 104-acre farm is often used by the public but has no cover from inclement weather.

Neighboring towns Stonington and Preston have expressed interest in putting together similar events, Ricker wrote in an email. It's possible that "Party with the Parties" becomes an annual occurrence, although that has not been decided upon yet.

"We are such a small town, we are not here to decide on capital punishment, abortion, war in Afghanistan; we're here to talk about good schools, good health and safety, good roads, for the most reasonable cost," Ricker said. "That's not a Democrat or Republican or unaffiliated issue, that is a human rights issue."

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