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Culture and Identity

SLO Farmers' Market flashmob aims to get out the vote

Ellen Morrison
The flashmob performing on Oct. 18, 2018.

It’s a typical night at San Luis Obispo’s Thursday farmers’ market. The smell of BBQ wafts through the air, and booths and shoppers fill Higuera Street. Suddenly a song begins to play and a group of dancers emerges from a crowd. It’s a flashmob, and everyone stops to watch.

This is the brainchild of San Luis Obispo resident Ellen Morrison. The flashmob first performed in mid-October to a crowd of surprised market-goers. The dance is fun of course, but it has a larger mission—to get people to vote.

“You can pick one thing just one thing that maybe left right and center could agree upon and that's the importance of voting,” Morrison said.

The idea began when Morrison first heard the song “Attention” by Charlie Puth.

“I heard this song and I thought that would be fun to create a routine to. I’ve been in one flashmob before, ” Morrison said. “And then I thought of the bumper sticker. If you're not outraged you're not paying attention. “

Morrison and her husband moved to San Luis Obispo two years ago. Discouraged by the current political divide, she looked for a way to bridge the gap in her new community.

“Doing something to get out the vote and being able to do it in a fun way to music, you have lightened up and you don't have to talk to one another,” Morrison said. “So you could be standing next to someone with political views that would make your blood boil. But you're maybe helping one another or laughing like ‘oh man I messed up.’”

Morrison says that while her focus is to encourage others to vote, she connects to the dance on a more personal level.

“I love to dance,” Morrison said. “For 20 years, I was very, very heavy and embarrassed to be seen on a dance floor.”

After losing 85 pounds and overcoming a slew of injuries, Morrison is ready to get back on the dance floor in front of hundreds of strangers.

“I was very nervous starting out since we don't have many friends here yet,” Morrison said. “We were just getting established to reach out to complete strangers and say ‘here we go!’”

The flashmob drew hundreds of viewers. Amber Smith, who sells produce at the market with her mother, saw the performance from her nearby booth.

“It’s very unique very cool very fun,” Smith said. “A very good idea for something like this when you’re in public and it kinda shows people that people can come together and doing something cool.”

Christine Wilson and Carolyn Eicher participated in the dance and said they are excited to do it again.

“That was so fun. I loved that it really did seem like a surprise.”

At the end of the song, Morrison and her fellow dancers shouted to the crowd:

“Hey! Pay attention! Vote!”

The second flashmob was scheduled for last week but Morrison canceled it due to low attendance. The final flashmob will be on Thursday, November 1 at 7 p.m. at the intersection of Higuera and Chorro Street in downtown San Luis Obispo.

Everyone is encouraged to join.

To learn the dance, visit Morrison’s youtube video titled “Pay Attention Vote! Flashmob Tutorial.”