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How Boston Democrats adopted Mecklenburg County

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How Boston Democrats adopted Mecklenburg County


When Drew Kromer became chair of the Mecklenburg Democratic Party last year, he had ambitious goals.

Raise more money. Register more voters. Increase turnout.

Soon after, Kromer, who is 27, found an unlikely benefactor: Jeff Blum, a 77-year-old New Yorker with Massachusetts ties who is a longtime Democratic Party organizer.

Blum can’t make a difference in the Northeast, where President Biden will win easily. So he looked elsewhere.

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In 2020, he did some voter outreach work in North Carolina, such as phone banking. He did that again in 2022.

But Blum said he wanted to zero in on one place in North Carolina instead of spreading his efforts across the state.

“Pretty consistently everyone told me the problem area is Mecklenburg,” he said.

By “problem,” he means low turnout in the county with the state’s most registered Democrats.

In the 2022 U.S. Senate race, for instance, only seven North Carolina counties had lower turnout than Mecklenburg. The state’s second-largest county produces huge margins for Democrats, but there is a belief that Mecklenburg could do even better and that Democrats are leaving 20,000 or so votes on the table.

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“We’ve looked at the data: Meck versus the rest of the state, Meck versus Wake,” Blum said. “We had seen all of those numbers. So we said: ‘Let’s create activists on the ground.’ ”

Blum was impressed with North Carolina’s new, young Democratic leaders, such as Kromer and state party chair Anderson Clayton, who is 26.

He decided to, in his words, “adopt” Mecklenburg County.

Volunteers and $$

Blum has helped in two key ways. One is phone banking. The other is money.

Twice a month, Blum’s group — called All In for NC — has volunteers who meet in Cambridge, Massachusetts, for a phone bank. They call Democratic voters in Mecklenburg and ask if they want to get engaged. They direct the voters to social events and other meet-ups, hoping they will have fun and want to volunteer in September and October.

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Kromer said Blum is responsible for 90% of the new people he’s enlisted in 2024.

“We’re flinging the doors wide open,” Kromer said. “Come see what we are building. Jeff is helping us with that message. The work that Jeff and his team have done has been the jump-start for this.”

He added: “I can have the best turn-out strategy, and if I don’t have the volunteers it will fail.”

When it comes to money, Blum has also helped Kromer raise lots of it.

In the last six months of 2023 — just after Kromer became chair, and connected with Blum — the Mecklenburg Democratic Party raised nearly $431,000 from individuals.

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For a county political party, that’s a huge number. (The Wake County Democratic Party raised $64,000 during the same time period.)

A significant number of donors are from New England — part of Blum’s network. And Kromer said that many other out-of-state donors are also connected to Blum.

In fundraising emails to county party members, the Mecklenburg Democratic Party is urging locals to give — in part because it impresses the out-of-state donors.

“Robust fundraising from the base of the party helps us convince major donors from in and out of Mecklenburg to invest in our program,” a February fundraising email said. “If we can show these folks that we, the grassroots, are investing in our plans and programs, it’ll move them to invest as well.”

Compare that $431,000 to what the county party raised during the same six months the year before the 2020 election. Jane Whitley was the chair then, and she didn’t have access to national donors.

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In a grassroots effort, she raised a little under $24,000 from individuals.

Blum said he also plans to raise money to help outside groups do work in Mecklenburg County, for things like voter registration.

And he’s tried to get his volunteers to follow North Carolina and Mecklenburg politics so they are invested.

Later this month, for instance, All In for NC is hosting a Zoom virtual call with Democratic legislative candidates, including Nicole Sidman, who is running against Republican Tricia Cotham for a southeast Mecklenburg seat.

“We’re hundreds of people,” Blum said. “We like the sense of being tied to the place and knowing the place.”

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How much can money do?

The question, of course, is how important will all the Massachusetts love — and cash — be?

If Democrats are lukewarm about President Biden, can any amount of money overcome that?

The county Democratic Party points to its success in Huntersville, when it ran an extensive voter outreach operation last November. Democrats won every seat on the town council, flipping it from red to blue. (The Huntersville election is officially nonpartisan, meaning political parties do not appear on the ballot next to a candidate’s name.)

But there are signs it’s going to be tough to turn the Mecklenburg aircraft carrier around.

While turnout was low for the 2022 midterms, it was even lower for the March primary. Only three North Carolina counties had a lower percentage of people vote than Mecklenburg.

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(Part of that is because this is a heavily Democratic county and Biden was running unopposed. But other Democratic counties like Durham still had higher turnout.)

And there is another factor: voter registration has lagged.

Inside Politics has written about this before, but immediately after the 2020 election, Mecklenburg had just under 798,000 registered voters and Wake County had 766,000.

Today, despite population growth, Mecklenburg has 788,600 and Wake has nearly 822,000.

Someone — the Mecklenburg Democratic Party, the North Carolina Democratic Party, the Biden campaign — needs to scramble and register about 20,000 people just to catch up to where they should be.

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Boston, MA

Everything you need to know about Boston Calling 2024

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Everything you need to know about Boston Calling 2024


Music

Your guide to Boston Calling 2024, including a full schedule, must-see artists, set times, and helpful tips to get the most out of the annual music festival.

Boston Calling 2024 returns to the Harvard Athletic Complex May 24-26, 2024. Erin Clark/Globe Staff

Believe it or not, Memorial Day weekend is already upon us, which means the 2024 Boston Calling Music Festival will soon bring more than 50 artists to the Harvard Athletic Complex in Allston this Friday through Sunday.

A fixture in the Boston cultural scene since its debut in 2013, Boston Calling has consistently attracted top-level talent to its festival. The 2024 Boston Calling lineup is no different, with English singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran, folk-country artist Tyler Childers, and arena rock stars The Killers headlining Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, respectively.

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To help you get the most out of your Boston Calling 2024 experience, we’ve put together a guide to what you should know before attending the festival this Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

Below, you’ll find more info on some of the best artists to see, the best food at Boston Calling, rules on what not to bring to the festival, transportation logistics, and more.


Friday at Boston Calling 2024

The festival grounds open to audiences at 1 p.m. on Friday, with Divine Sweater kicking off the music at 1:45 on the Red Stage.

Before Ed Sheeran closes the night out from the Green Stage at 8:40 p.m., other top artists in Friday’s lineup include Young the Giant (7:40 p.m., Blue Stage), Leon Bridges (7:05 p.m. Red Stage), and “I Hate Boston” singer Reneé Rapp (5:55 p.m., Green Stage).

Boston Calling 2024 schedule and set times for Friday, May 24.
Boston Calling 2024 schedule and set times for Friday, May 24. – Boston Calling

Saturday at Boston Calling 2024

The festival grounds once again open at 1 p.m., 45 minutes before Senseless Optimism gets the music started on the Red Stage.

Tyler Childers closes out the day from the Green Stage at 9 p.m., with other notable performances including Jessie Murph (7:35 p.m., Blue Stage), Trey Anastasio & Classic Tab (7:15 p.m., Red Stage), and Khruangbin (6:05 p.m., Green Stage).

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Boston Calling 2024 schedule and set times for Saturday, May 25.
Boston Calling 2024 schedule and set times for Saturday, May 25. – Boston Calling

Sunday at Boston Calling 2024

The festival grounds open for a final time at 1 p.m. on Sunday, with Stefan Thev first on the bill at 1:40 p.m. on the Red Stage.

The Killers will close out the festival from the Green Stage at 9:10 p.m., with festival grounds closing at 11 p.m.

Sunday is the only day that has sold out of both GA and Platinum tickets, an indicator of the strong lineup on hand for the final day. Top artists performing on Sunday include Hozier (7:35 p.m., Red Stage), Megan Thee Stallion (6:25 p.m., Green Stage), Chappell Roan (4:05 p.m., Green Stage) and Alvvays (7:50 p.m., Blue Stage).

Boston Calling 2024 schedule and set times for Sunday, May 26.
Boston Calling 2024 schedule and set times for Sunday, May 26. – Boston Calling

What local bands and artists should I see at Boston Calling 2024?

Bad Rabbits frontman Fredua Boakye.
Bad Rabbits frontman Fredua Boakye. – Alex Pearlman/Boston.com Staff

Boston Calling has always featured local artists as part of its festival lineup. In fact, R&B/soul group Bad Rabbits were the very first act to take the stage at the first Boston Calling back in 2013.

But in recent years, the festival has pushed to make local artists a larger part of the lineup, with 21 of the 51 acts in this year’s lineup boasting local ties.

Boston Calling co-founder Brian Appel noted the shift during the announcement of the 2022 festival lineup, saying that after everything “Boston musicians endured during the pandemic,” the festival would “shine a spotlight on local and regional artists more than ever before.”

On Friday, swing by the Blue Stage at 2:15 to catch Berklee College of Music student Kieran Rhodes. Rhodes appeared on the seventeenth season of America’s Got Talent in 2022, and was one of the artists at Connecticut’s Sound on Sound Music Festival alongside the Red Hot Chili Peppers and John Mayer.

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On Saturday, Bad Rabbits will be on the Red Stage at 3 p.m. Founded in Boston in 2007, the group performs an eclectic blend of neo-soul, funk rock, post-hardcore, and about 15 other genres, none of which can fully encapsulate the band’s sound.

As for Sunday, try to show up early for The Thing, who will bring an old-school rock sensibility to the Blue Stage at 2:10 p.m.

To see a full list of hometown performers, check out our Boston Calling 2024 local music guide, which features info on all 21 local artists playing this weekend.


What should I eat and drink at Boston Calling 2024?

Boston Calling is making sure that concertgoers will be well-fed for the performances.

For veterans of the festival, many of the restaurants will be familiar. The Smoke Shop BBQ, which has experimented with its portable, festival-friendly take on barbecue since 2017, is bringing back its Ultimate BBQ Cone, stuffed with burnt ends, pimento mac ‘n cheese, pit beans, coleslaw, and pickled jalapeños. You won’t find the BBQ cone on the regular menu at any of Andy Husbands’ restaurants, so if you’re a fan of novelty, this is one to try.

For those seeking something new, Boston Calling first-timers include The MacBar (offering mac ‘n cheese), Ricen (thai food), and the popular local seafood chain Shaking Crab.

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You’ll find something for pretty much any taste, whether it’s gyros from Greco, grilled cheese from Roxy’s, or wood-fired Neapolitan pies from PieSons Pizza.

The beer will come courtesy Miller, Heineken, and Sam Adams, while Truly, White Claw, and Twisted Tea will handle the canned cocktails. Josh Cellars will be uncorking the wine, and there will also be drink choices from Jack Daniel’s.

To see a full list of participating vendors and some of the options available to VIP and Platinum ticket-holders, check out our full Boston Calling 2024 food and drink guide.


How do I get to and from Boston Calling 2024?

The long and short of how you should travel to and from Boston Calling can be summed up in two words: public transportation.

The easiest way to get to the festival is to take the MBTA Red Line to Harvard Station. From there, it’s a straight shot to the festival: Take John F. Kennedy Street, cross the Anderson Memorial Bridge, and you’ll see the festival entrance on the right side of the street. In total, the walk takes ten minutes.

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If you’re not near the Red Line, you can also take the Commuter Rail to the Boston Landing station, which is 1.1 miles from the festival. The 66 and 86 bus routes also stop at Harvard Stadium. For transportation directions from your specific location, use the MBTA Trip Planner.

There is no parking at the festival, and no street parking in nearby neighborhoods. Boston police will be ticketing and towing any vehicles illegally parked near the festival.

If you want to use a ride-share service like Uber or Lyft, organizers recommend setting the destination as Harvard Stadium. At the end of the night, there will be signage directing concertgoers to dedicated rideshare spots.

You should note that Boston and Cambridge PD will close JFK and North Harvard St. to traffic from 9 p.m. to midnight each night to ensure pedestrian safety, so public transportation really is the best option.


How can I avoid long lines at Boston Calling?

Boston Calling is a large music festival, so you’re inevitably going to run into crowds at some point during the day. But as someone who has attended every single edition, I’ve learned a few helpful tips along the way.

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1. Pre-register your wristband

In an effort to speed up lines for concessions and merch, Boston Calling 2024 is an entirely cashless festival.

Festivalgoers can register their wristband either before or during the festival to connect it to a credit or debit card through the Boston Calling website. Vendors will also accept credit cards.

2. Buy artist merch early

The biggest lines at previous editions of Boston Calling have been for the official artist and festival merchandise, which can be purchased just inside the entrance.

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Boston Calling 2024 has added a second merch kiosk to help minimize the issue, but if you’re set on getting a Reneé Rapp tank or a Killers tee, you might want to consider setting aside the first 30 minutes of your time at the festival to make your purchase.

3. Learn the festival map, and take the road less traveled

Another way to avoid any bottlenecks is to familiarize yourself with the festival map (see below) before heading to Allston on Friday.

The layout remains basically the same from previous festivals, with a few small tweaks. You enter from the corner of Soldiers Field Rd. and N. Harvard St., then proceed to the entrance.

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If you’re headed to the Red or Green stages, proceed straight, where you will pass a number of food options and brand activations. If you want the Blue or Orange stages, make a left toward the merch stations.

There is always less traffic on the path from the Blue Stage to the Red Stage (located on the far left of the map below). It’s not only a more direct path, you’ll also pass local artists on the Orange Stage you may not have known about.

A map of the festival grounds at Boston Calling 2024.
A map of the festival grounds at Boston Calling 2024. – Boston Calling

What items are banned at Boston Calling 2024?

Before getting into the banned items, here are a few things you can bring to the Boston Calling 2024:

— Small clutch purses and fanny packs that are 6″ x 9″ or smaller with no more than one pocket

— Hydration packs and reusable water bottles that are empty

— Cameras without detachable lenses or other accessories like tripods

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— Sunscreen in non-aerosol cans, provided they are 3.4 ounces or less

Now for the list of stuff you can’t bring:

— Aerosol containers, glass containers, coolers, hammocks, chairs, blankets, towels, inflatables, umbrellas, strollers, carts, frisbees, binoculars, professional recording equipment, drones, selfie sticks, fireworks, illegal substances, and weapons.

Additionally, Boston Calling remains a smoke-free festival. The festival’s rules no longer explicitly ban items like cigarettes or vapes by name, but its guidelines say that “medicines needing to be inhaled or smoked” can only be done via “a prescribed inhaler,” which effectively means the same thing.


Can I still buy tickets to Boston Calling 2024?

You can still purchase tickets of almost every type on the Boston Calling website. The only day with limited availability is Sunday, which has sold out of GA and Platinum tickets.

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Single-day tickets cost $196 for GA, $320 for GA+, $499 for VIP, and $1399 for Platinum. All of the listed prices already include fees, so you won’t have the usual unpleasant surprise of prices jumping when you get ready to pay.

Three-day tickets, meanwhile, cost $392 for GA, $639 for GA+, $1199 for VIP, and $2899 for Platinum.

There are also a number of tickets available below those price points on secondary ticket resale websites like StubHub. Though StubHub offers a money-back guarantee for fraudulent tickets, Boston Calling says that it cannot guarantee the authenticity of any tickets not purchased directly through its website.





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Forest Hills Cemetery in Boston has everything from creepy to inspirational

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Forest Hills Cemetery in Boston has everything from creepy to inspirational


BOSTON – If you’re looking for a way to enjoy the outdoors, but at the same time break away from the usual routine, there’s just the place for you in a cemetery in Boston.

Where is Forest Hills Cemetery?

Tucked in a small area between Franklin Park and the Arnold Arboretum is the Forest Hills Cemetery in Jamaica Plain.

The 275 acre parcel of land features manicured landscapes, beautiful structures, and rare works of art. Visitors are encouraged and free tours are given.

It’s a lovely place if you don’t mind the headstones.

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Forest Hills Cemetery was founded in 1848 by Henry Dearborn. Back then, most cemeteries were for the rich and connected. Dearborn had a different vision. Initially, plots were given away at low or no cost to the working class. Over the years, it’s grown in size and scope.

Who is buried at Forest Hills Cemetery?

“Architecture, abolitionists, artists, just a wide variety of people of interest that are interred here,” cemetery director George Milley told WBZ-TV.

The cemetery features impressive sculptures, a half dozen from the designer of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.

“We’re very fortunate. We have the largest collection of Daniel Chester French memorial sculptures in the country, we have 6 pieces,” Milley said.

The Dearborn Pavilion is a welcoming, landscaped area that features a stonework gazebo that attracts all sorts of people. It’s also an expansive mausoleum.   

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The Dearborn Pavilion at the Forest Hills Cemetery in Boston. 

CBS Boston


“Many times we’ll come by and there will be people sitting underneath, reading or having a coffee. On occasion we’ll have kids’ groups playing instruments under there,” Milley said.

The girl in the glass

There are more haunting attractions at the cemetery, like the “girl in the glass.”

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“Upon her passing, the family commissioned a local sculptor to sculpt a full-size likeness of her in marble,” Milley told WBZ.

glass.jpg
WBZ’s Chris Tanaka (left) with the “girl in the glass” and Forest Hills Cemetery  director George Milley.

CBS Boston


From creepy to inspirational, there’s a little of everything at Forest Hills. Boston College graduates will recognize an eagle sculpture atop a headstone that was the basis for the golden sculpture that greets visitors by the main entrance on campus. There are also highly symbolic pieces like the Fireman’s Lot which is the location for an annual memorial service.

Tours are offered during the warmer months and visitors are asked to respect the grounds. Dogs and bicycles are not allowed. For more information, go to the cemetery’s website.

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Newton North handles Winchester in 3-1 volleyball win

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Newton North handles Winchester in 3-1 volleyball win


WINCHESTER — As the regular season dwindles down to its final days, the Newton North boys volleyball team keeps making its case as the bona fide favorite in the Div. 1 state title race.

Despite losing the first set while missing head coach Nile Fox on the sidelines, the No. 1 Tigers (17-2) handled business as usual Wednesday night with yet another signature win — this time via a 3-1 (21-25, 25-17, 25-21, 25-18) nonleague victory over No. 7 Winchester (15-4).

Adam Christianson led the way with 20 kills, 15 assists and three blocks, pacing an otherwise well-balanced effort that saw several others carve out high-impact roles.

The win comes in assistant coach Claire MacIntosh’s debut leading the varsity team’s sideline, giving Newton North 11 straight wins and its fifth win over a top-six team in the latest MIAA Div. 1 power rankings.

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“We didn’t play the best, we got it done thankfully, but it was ugly,” MacIntosh said, before getting into the mentality without Fox there. “I think the guys know what they need to do. They’re all smart, they all understand volleyball. They know the plan, and what they don’t know, I can supply.”

The Red and Black came out on fire and energized in the opening set, using contributions from premier hitter Jamie Watt (13 kills, two blocks), Adam Lubomirski (33 assists), Tuto Sampaio (10 kills) and middle Kirk Levesque (six kills, five blocks) to edge out a 25-21 win.

But Newton North responded fast with a 5-0 start to the second set and didn’t look back from there.

Christianson posted seven of his kills in the frame to help keep the Red and Black at an arm’s length the whole way. Simon Vardeh (15 kills, three aces) closed out the win with an ace while Paul Nelson posted both of his blocks and two of his four kills in the 25-17 frame.

Winchester matched Newton North with side-out volleyball in stretches of the third and fourth sets, but a collection of mini-runs from the Tigers boosted them to close out each one.

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Joaquin Cuevas-Torres (26 assists) helped Christianson cook for four kills in the third set to turn an 18-17 lead into 23-20.

Sam Huang (seven kills, five blocks) heated up with a kill and block to finish off a 25-21 win in the third, before catching fire in the middle of the fourth for a 14-9 lead. Nelson, Christianson, Peter Reale (four kills, two blocks), Huang, Vardeh and Amaris Cotto all notched points from there to hold off a couple Winchester charges for a 25-18 win and the match.

That included a 4-1 run that built up the lead to 20-15 as the Red and Black hung around.

Middles have been featured a lot lately in the attack, but Newton North approached this one a bit different.

“Winchester has one really good middle, (Levesque), who we just decided we can’t go at,” MacIntosh said. “With (Watt) being so big also and helping on the middle on every ball, we just thought it was better to go to the outsides a lot of the time.”

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Newton North libero Brady Dwyer also played well while dishing six assists.

With just Milford left on the schedule (Friday) before taking on the state tournament, the Tigers are well aware of the challenge ahead.

Their 11th straight win shows they can handle the task.

“I think the biggest difference between this year and last year is that we know going into the tournament we’re the team to beat,” MacIntosh said. “We have the target on our backs. Last year it was Needham, it’s been Needham for four years. I think now we know it’s us, every team wants to take us down. Every time we show up to a gym, the other team is going to give us their best. I think we’re really stepping up to the pressure.”



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