A Push for Change, One Pint at a Time
In late spring of 2018, I paired up with Neil Mens to create YQG + Me, a project-based initiative located in Windsor, Ontario aimed at engaging the ever-shrinking Millennial population. The intention behind what we aimed to achieve was, and is, to shift the general opinion of Windsor. First, the opinion of its own citizens and second, to those whose views on YQG that are less than flattering. Let’s change what it means to be a young person living in Windsor Essex.
The yourWindsor videos (Brave Control Systems, CentreLine, Next Dimension) were making the rounds online at that time, perfectly synced with the wave of change we were aiming at taking part in. The youth-targeted videos shed light on the affordability Rose City offered to someone at the beginning of their career, or looking to buy a home (or both).
YQG + Me became clearer on its intended messaging, wondering what our first project would be. Something that made sense. My generation isn’t very well-known for giving a shit. About anything. Something needed to change that. Or at least try.
With the municipal election happening towards the end of the year (October 22, 2018), it allowed us ample time to set a plan in motion and execute. The details became clearer as we moved forward with it.
Statistically, the voter turnout in the last election was at a low 37.51%, and both Neil and I wanted to take a crack at raising those numbers in 2018. After a couple meetings, Neil brought a genius idea to the table. He was inspired by Beau’s All Natural Brewing Company and their voter campaign in 2014 that incentivized Torontonians to vote by giving them free beer. In today’s crazy world, I say whatever it takes to create change!
With that, I came up with a name for the series : Ballots & Brews. The week-long voter series would take place each night of that week leading up to the election in wards 2 - 5. The reason we chose those areas was because they each boasted a local craft brewery, able to host an event like this. This being our inaugural event, we wanted to start with something the two of us could tackle. A reminder that we were two guys who just had an idea a few months prior and were using our own resources to make this happen.
The experience showed us what we could make happen on our own, proving what the yourWindsor videos were advocating : in Windsor, if you have the drive, you can really create magic.
We partnered with Sandwich Brewing Company (Ward 2), Craftheads Brewing Company (Ward 3), Walkerville Brewery (Ward 4) and Chapter Two Brewing Company (Ward 5).
The week leading up to Ballots & Brews series, Neil and I made sure to be present at the Windsor Craft Beer Festival, hosted by WindsorEats. It set the stage to allow us to speak directly with a wide range of craft beer drinkers about why they were there as well as why we were there.
By creating an informal environment where young voters could grab a beer, interact face to face with the candidates running to hopefully run the city set the stage for what we originally aimed to achieve : engagement.
The story was picked up by CBC Windsor, The Windsor Star and Rose City Politics (a local podcast), which allowed for a bit of publicity for Ballots & Brews. We also gained a ton of traction online with our Facebook page / event being shared a couple thousand times. People were showing they cared!
Listen to the entire CBC Windsor Morning interview here:
Neil and I went into the CBC Radio Windsor Morning talk show to discuss Ballots & Brews. This was quite an experience! I was so happy that the message was getting out into the city about YQG + Me. Ballots & Brews also went live each night on CBC’s Facebook and Rose City Politics’ podcast.
Looking back at the build-up to the events, and the aftermath, it’s safe to say that Ballots & Brews was very positively received, being that this was the first time a non-partisan entity like YQG + Me was doing something like this. The resounding feedback I received from attendees as well as the candidates was that they were happy that a platform such as this one was created for the community to engage.
For those that came out to B&B, there was nothing but love for the event, regardless of where their individual political opinions leaned.