Local residents upset they were uninvited to see president

Not everyone who registered to go see the president was able to attend. The César Chavez Foundation says the event was over capacity, so Sunday night they had to uninvite close to 3,000 people.
Deborah Thahim says she was shopping Sunday for new outfits with her seven-year-old daughter for the president's visit in Keene when her husband called to tell her they couldn't go.

"We were pretty upset, my little one started getting teary-eyed and saying how come, nothing ever goes right for us,” Thahim says. “So she was really upset."

Thahim says she signed up to attend the event early Friday before registration closed. She received a confirmation letter she says she was going to frame. She got her daughter Zara excused from school and says she cried when she learned she couldn't go see the president.

“It’s unfair, out all the thousands of people, we had to be one of the ones not going,” she says.

Thahim says she told all her friends, family and neighbors she was going and now feels so embarrassed.

Marc Grossman of the Cesar Chavez foundation and UFW says they expected about 20 percent of the people who registered for the event would not show up. He says they asked registrants to re-confirm, and when the majority did, they had to email and call about 3,000 people Sunday night to tell them they couldn't go.

"There were people who were upset and understandably so,” Grossman says. “All we can do is just apologize and explain that the response was so overwhelming and unanticipated in such a short period of time that we cut it off as soon as we knew what we were dealing with."

Thahim says it was hard for her to play back this message on her answering machine Sunday night from a United Farm Workers representative:

“I would like to inform you that you will not be able to attend the event tomorrow at the National Chavez Center and all those who registered under your email address will not be able to attend either.”

Thamin wasn’t the only one left out of Monday's ceremony. A group of high school students in Lamont says they were crushed after learning they couldn't go to the dedication either.

Nueva High School planned to take 27 students to see President Barack Obama speak in Keene. One of the teachers Whitney Wedell says some of the students showed up to school two hours early thinking they were going to see the president.

"They bought new clothes, and they got haircuts and their families were so proud," Wedell says. “There was an element of family pride of being chosen to see the president.”

Irving Niño was one of them. He’s a senior at Nueva and says he was excited for the trip.

“I told my family I was going to see the president, and they were thrilled for me,” he says.

Niño says he was heartbroken when his dad told him last night his school counselor called and said he wasn't going.

“The trip was cancelled, and at first I didn't believe him,” he says. “I told him are you serious? I said wow, that's really disappointing, I really wanted to go, it's not an every day chance you get to go see the president.”

The UFW says they didn't expect 10,000 people to register or 7,000 of them to show up to the event.

"It quickly became obvious that we didn't have the capacity to accommodate everyone,” Grossman says. “We were hoping some people would’ve dropped off after they registered.

The Nueva school group was among the 3,000 people turned away.

"It was as if a promise had been broken, they lost more than just some field trip," Wedell says. “Many of them are sons and daughters of farm workers out here, many of their parents are members of the UFW, and to be disappointed in an organization that purports to help build the dreams of the farm workers and then to have those dreams just crushed over the weekend was antithetical."

Wedell says her class wrote a letter to the UFW and the president saying they were lied to. She says their school was one of the first to register as soon as registration opened on Wednesday, so when the UFW said “only the first to register could attend,” Wedell was upset her school was denied tickets.

"There's no way you can make that up, there's nothing that can be done now to say gee, we're sorry what can we do for you?"

Wedell says she planned to mail the letter after school let out Monday. The UFW says people who RSVP’ed for the event can receive an official photo of the dedication by calling a UFW representative or by visiting the monument in Keene.
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