NORMAL - A day of MTV-sponsored entertainment intended to rally Normal supporters in its competition with Boring, Ore., for Toshiba computers may not have drawn a large crowd, but the fans who were there seemed devoted to the local team's cause.
"I wanted to show my support for Normal," said Anna Malkin, explaining why she was at the Toshiba Laptops Set Me Free Tour event co-sponsored by MTV Networks at Fairview Park. "I think a lot of people don't realize how many things you can do here, and how fun it is. I wanted to show my kids that a lot of people feel the same way."
About 120 people attended the event, said Toshiba representative Ashley Barrett.
It featured comedian Amy Schumer, who has appeared on Comedy Central, rock band Lives of Famous Men, Ultimate Fighting Championship star Jake O'Brien and MTV entertainment reporter Toby Turner. Gaming lounges were set up at the sides of the stage so people could play video games on Toshiba laptops.
Among the attendees were many like Malkin, who vote frequently in the only contest, which features weekly online videos showing teams from each town using their Toshiba laptops in various projects. In fact, the mother of two Fairview Elementary School students said she votes once a day, the maximum allowed under contest rules.
Normal needs the support of such fans because voting is running "neck and neck," said Eric Paulsen, director of public relations for Toshiba, which co-sponsored Saturday's event with MTV.
Local participants say the return of Illinois State University students to Normal next week may help turn the tide in their favor.
"We're hoping when the students get back they really start voting," said Deborah Senger, a paranormal expert who is one of the contestants representing Normal.
The Normal-based Unit 5 school district will receive $15,000 worth of laptop computers if online voters pick Normal over Boring, and that was a major incentive for many at Saturday's event.
"Education is important," said Senger. "Education and being proud of where you're from."
The competition began after Toshiba selected contestants in May from a pool of applicants who proposed ways they would use laptops in various projects. It gave five Normal residents and six Boring residents laptops and began tracking how they used them.
The general public can go to www.myspace.com/boringvsnormal to watch weekly update videos and vote on which town is more interesting. A new video will be posted each Monday through Aug. 24.
"City officials have gone above and beyond in helping us achieve what we want to achieve," Paulsen said. "They've really helped us out in scouting locations and clearing the way for us."
Voting started July 27 and continues until Sept. 13. Results will be announced Sept. 14.
Among those voters is Kristin Hansen of Bloomington.
"My brother goes to NCHS (Normal Community High School), so I have a personal connection to it," she said of her frequent voting.
Melissa Truman of Normal teaches at Blooming Grove Academy in Bloomington, which isn't a Unit 5 school, but she's still pulling for the Normal team. In fact, she's also voted several times and e-mailed the link to many acquaintances.
"Being a teacher, I think it's so important they get the computers," she said.