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Tuesday, July 05, 2022

Voters march through the city in inaugural Parade to the Polls

<p><span id="docs-internal-guid-3972d8dd-d460-d2c2-7cd7-d7f0a22d8b00"><span>About 70 people, clad in tie-dye shirts and carrying bongos and banners, pause by the Hippodrome State Theatre on Saturday during the Parade to the Polls. They were supporting local Alachua politicians Mike Byerly and Robert Hutchinson.</span></span></p>

About 70 people, clad in tie-dye shirts and carrying bongos and banners, pause by the Hippodrome State Theatre on Saturday during the Parade to the Polls. They were supporting local Alachua politicians Mike Byerly and Robert Hutchinson.

Led by a thumping three-piece band, dozens of voters marched to the polls Saturday afternoon.

As part of the inaugural Parade to the Polls, a crowd of about 70 people traveled more than a mile from First Magnitude Brewing Company to the Alachua County Supervisor of Elections Office. The parade took place on the last day of early voting before Tuesday’s primary election.

Kyle Giest, a UF alumnus who co-organized the parade, said the goal of the afternoon was to remind residents of the primary — and of the importance of local politics.

“Local politics shape your city and your life,” he said, “and you know, with the spectacle of Trump versus Hillary, I think people don’t see what’s actually going on on a local level.”

As Giest led the pack, hauling UF student and drummer Noah Hinrichsen on a pedicab, students and residents followed close behind, most of whom played kazoos. Behind them, a pink-haired student juggled as another rode on a unicycle. Circling around, a resident drove an electric scooter decorated to look like a narwhal.

“Voting’s kind of boring when you’re going by yourself,” Giest said. “Let’s make it fun.”

The group was joined on the march by two incumbent Democratic Alachua County commissioners, Mike Byerly and Robert Hutchinson, whose respective District 1 and 3 seats are up for grabs in the primary.

Participants waved banners promoting the commissioners and, at points, held up traffic after they cut through Depot Park and walked down North Main Street to downtown.

The parade lasted about 45 minutes, with a handful of water breaks taken intermittently.

Maureen Murtha, a 28-year-old UF alumna, said she wants Gainesville to stay “weird” and not become an overly commercialized city, visions she said both commissioners share.

Losses for Hutchinson and Byerly, she said, would give a green light to land developers looking to turn Gainesville into a sprawling commercial metropolis.

“They just see the future of Gainesville as following in the footsteps of other cities in the state of Florida,” she said. “We don’t want to look like Tampa.”

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Hutchinson, who is running against fellow Democrat Larry McDaniel in Tuesday’s primary, said he was happy to see voters so passionate about the election.

“It’s good fun at this point,” he said. “The hard part is over.”

About 70 people, clad in tie-dye shirts and carrying bongos and banners, pause by the Hippodrome State Theatre on Saturday during the Parade to the Polls. They were supporting local Alachua politicians Mike Byerly and Robert Hutchinson.

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