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How do you get millennials into politics? With a party, of course

Nonpartisan event Oct. 7 includes free beer, bands and TED-style talks

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IOWA CITY — Tens of thousands of Iowans ages 17 to 29 participated in the Iowa caucuses, overwhelming some caucus sites and pushing Democrat Bernie Sanders to a virtual tie with Hillary Clinton.

But how do you sustain enthusiasm among young people to get them to vote, stay up on community issues and even consider running for elected office themselves?

Maybe beer, live music and short talks on progressive issues — all for free — would do it.

“We use the party as the hook, but once they’re in the room, we want to do TED-style conversations about an issue to let people know how they can affect social change,” said Stacey Walker, 28, a candidate for Linn County supervisor and chairman of the Safe, Equitable & Thriving Communities Task Force in Cedar Rapids.

The Political Party — with emphasis on party — takes place from 7:30-10 p.m. Friday, Oct. 7, on Dubuque Street, between Iowa Avenue and Jefferson Street, in downtown Iowa City.

The idea for the nonpartisan event came after Walker and some friends, including Ravi Patel, president of Hawkeye Hotels; Zach Wahls, writer and social advocate; and entrepreneur Simeon Talley invited some friends to the Mill Restaurant in Iowa City to talk politics in the lead-up to the Iowa caucuses in February.

“We wanted to keep this energy and momentum going,” Walker said.

Walker talked with Zachary Mannheimer and Izaah Knox of Des Moines and they also had been mulling ways to get millennials more involved in politics.

The group decided to plan two events — the Des Moines Political Party is Sept. 23 — combining entertainment and issue-oriented talks that transcend party lines.

The Iowa City event is to include three talks of seven to 10 minutes each on youth power, the moral economy (including living wages and affordable housing) and civic engagement.

Music is being provided by DJs Mike Stenerson and Lady Espinoza, hip-hop artist MarKaus, and Goosetown, a seven-piece band that plays original music and covers. A spoken word performance also is planned.

Because the goal of the party is to get people involved, non-profits are being offered table space at the event and there are to be “several calls-to-action” and volunteers collecting emails.

The Political Party is free, including a free beer for the first 75 people ages 21 and up.

Sponsors of the event are Citizens for a Healthy Iowa, Pamela Bass Bookey and Harry Bookey Charitable Foundation and Patel.

l Comments: (319) 339-3157; erin.jordan@thegazette.com

For all of The Gazette's Election 2016 coverage, please visit our election coverage center.

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