NeighborWorks looking to ‘get out the vote’ to bring back summer concert series

NeighborWorks looking to ‘get out the vote’ to bring back summer concert series

SwampBirds lead singer Jen Long, of Providence, performs during the 2018 Levitt AMP Woonsocket Music Concert Series at River Island Park in August. Voting to determine the 2019 Levitt AMP grant recipients is open through Nov. 20 at (Breeze photo by Robert Emerson)

WOONSOCKET – The 2018 election season may have drawn to a close Tuesday, but one city organization is still hoping to get out the vote, this time for a cause all residents can rally behind.

For the second year in a row, Woonsocket is in the running for a $25,000 matching grant from the Mortimer and Mimi Levitt Foundation to put on a free 10-week summer concert series in River Island Art Park. Organizers estimate this past summer’s Levitt AMP series drew between 200 and 500 visitors to the park every Friday night, bringing with them a boost to downtown businesses and a healthy appetite for music and local restaurants.

Like last year, the selection process begins with a public vote, with only the top 25 vote-getters eligible for consideration for one of up to 15 grants. Voting opened on Nov. 1 and will remain open until Nov. 20 on the foundation’s website. As of Monday, Woonsocket was in 14th place out of 41 contestants located in 26 states.

“We find that the very best way to get people to vote is when you ask them to do it in person,” said Meghan Rego, director of resource development and communications at NeighborWorks Blackstone River Valley, the local sponsoring organization. “One of the things we did last year was we got on the loudspeaker and asked every single person at the high school to take out their (phones and) vote at that one time.”

This year, organizers have capitalized on the election-year voting hype by handing out postcards promoting the Levitt AMP vote at Tuesday’s polling locations. The topic has also come up at NeighborWorks’ after-school youth programs, said Rego, where teenagers too young to vote in the midterm elections were encouraged to learn the impact of the ballot by heading online and voting in the Levitt AMP contest.

“They have the power through the click of a mouse to bring an awesome community experience to the city, and it’s not often that we have that much power individually, so I would really encourage them to do this,” she said, adding the foundation gives priority consideration to communities that place in the top 10.

Last year, the city learned in January that it had been awarded the $25,000 grant, which was supplemented with donations from local sponsors and several months of efforts by volunteers. The 10-week series included 20 music acts ranging from blues to folk to salsa and featured local businesses selling goods and providing food and drink in the outdoor space.

If the city wins the grant again this year, said Rego, the format will be similar to last year’s but with an added emphasis on different food options. The organization also hopes to bring in more local vendors to provide shopping opportunities between acts and will work on expanding the event in response to last year’s feedback in the months ahead.

“We are open to ideas and suggestions. First, we need everybody in the community to vote and get every human that they know to vote,” she said. “Once we win the series, we can come up with some really great ways to make it even better than it was in 2018.”

Individuals can visit to cast a vote. Voting will remain open until Nov. 20.