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Multi-purpose festival promotes voter registration

By Tyler Hargett

Russellville might be well-known for its annual Watermelon Festival, but last Saturday at Sloss Lake, a new festival entered the ring. However, this wasn’t a celebration to beat the heat; it was about coming together in Christ.

Led by Jose Sanchez, pastor of Bethania Family Christian Church, the event was established to bring families together with food, music and fun.

“We need to bring all people together,” he said. “We need to preach the Gospel … I think it’s a family time.”

Components of the festival included a live band from Montgomery, face painting and bounce houses for children and plenty of food and drinks. One of the stand-out features was a voter registration booth, supervised by Evelyn Servin, North Alabama regional organizer for the Alabama Coalition for Immigrant Justice.

“We have a campaign going on called Alabama Vota,” said Servin. “We want to make sure that this weekend we go outside and turn out voters to go to the polls Nov. 8, but then we also register as many eligible potential voters as we can.”

The ACIJ is a statewide nonprofit organization that has not only been encouraging voter registration but also organizing immigration reform, stopping family separation brought on by deportation and building alliances with police, businesses and elected officials. Founded in 2006 and galvanized after the passage of the 2011 Alabama anti-illegal immigration bill House Bill 56, the group has evolved into a major organizing force, both locally and nationally.

Sanchez wasn’t the only preacher enjoying the festivities. Helping out was the Rev. Charles Dale, of Real Chapel Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, who has been helping out the ACIJ since 2011.

“One family, one Alabama,” said Dale. “It’s time for us as a people to come together and work together and unite to bring society together. God planted us here on this earth just like a flower. We are his flowers in his garden.”

While the election is drawing closer every day, Sanchez, Dale, and Servin are still trusting the Lord to get them through the election. While it is unknown if the festival will happen again next year, it is certain the day was full of fun, faith and even a bit of politics.