A frenzied Fourth
© St. Petersburg Times
published June 30, 2002
LUTZ -- "I want to make one thing clear," said Pam Iorio. "Our office has nothing whatsoever to do with whoever is elected guv'na."
Iorio, the Hillsborough County supervisor of elections, may not step into Lutz's wacky fundraising competition, but she plans to have an unprecedented election-year presence in the midst of Lutz's July Fourth festivities. Iorio's office will set up its new touch-screen voting machines in the truck bays of the Lutz Volunteer Fire Department, so people can give them a try.
"This July Fourth celebration gives us an opportunity to expose literally thousands of voters at one time to the machines," she said.
Voting machines are one of several new attractions joining the many traditions of Lutz's 57th consecutive July Fourth celebration.
Other newcomers include antique stock cars and a World War II re-enactment group that plans to parade in period uniforms, with five World War II trucks and jeeps. The group is inviting veterans of World War II to ride along Thursday morning. (They can call Scott Campbell at 949-7644.)
They'll be joined by the traditional throngs of Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, youth sports teams, firetrucks, horses and, perhaps, a few farm animals. Past parades have featured a cow, a pig, goats, chickens, a boa constrictor and innumerable dogs.
Another Lutz tradition is the inherent unpredictability of a parade that's open to everyone. Participants are asked to register in advance (at 949-7481), but most parades include last-minute entrants.
Many other mainstays of July Fourth in Lutz are to be repeated Thursday:
As usual, the Lutz Volunteer Fire Department will sell barbecue chicken lunches for $5 at the Community Center. The department will celebrate its 50th birthday Thursday with a pair of banners across the fire station. And it's inviting the public to walk through the building, which has undergone $439,500 in renovations over the last year.
"Except for a couple of minor things, such as phone jacks not being in, it's just about ready," said Gordon Brown, a Hillsborough sheriff's deputy and member of the fire department's board.
Lutz will host a surplus of election-year politicians and their supporters Thursday. But this year, Temple Terrace has given them a quandary. The city switched its traditional afternoon parade to 10 a.m., the same time as Lutz's, to avoid thunderstorms.
Many politicians will try to ride in both parades, having a supporter hold a spot near the end of one parade while they finish in the front of the other.
"I'm considering chartering a helicopter," quipped Denise Lasher, a candidate for Hillsborough County Commission.
In Lutz, the candidates would be smart to send their supporters to the fire station. Besides having a chance to try out the new voting machines, they'll be able to register to vote, Iorio said.
Two factors are giving election officials one of their all-time greatest educational challenges this year. First, Hillsborough and Florida's other large counties have bought cutting-edge voting machines to avoid problems highlighted during the state's 2000 presidential recounts. Second, federal law required a nationwide redrawing of all voting districts -- from school boards to Congress -- to reflect population changes shown in the 2000 Census.
Thus, many voters will find themselves in new precincts and new districts, voting on new machines, when primary elections are held Sept. 10.
The changes are so extensive that Iorio plans an open house of all Hillsborough County precincts Aug. 3. Her office already has demonstrated its machines nearly 350 times.
"There's not much of a learning curve because it's an easy-to-use piece of equipment," Iorio said. "But it is a learning curve. We want that learning curve accomplished prior to Election Day."
-- Bill Coats can be reached at (813) 269-5309 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
LUTZ -- Getting a car into Lutz's old downtown Thursday morning will be harder than getting a snowman there. Lutz-Lake Fern Road, the neighborhood's only through-street, will be closed from 7:45 a.m. until noon between U.S. 41 and Crooked Lane. West of Crooked Lake, parking is available at the Oscar Cooler Youth Sports Complex. East of U.S. 41, there's space at the Old Lutz School. Parking also is legal along residential streets, as long as you don't block intersections, driveways or fire hydrants.
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