2018: a monoblogue year in review

Can you tell this was an election year? If not, read on and you’ll figure it out.

But it began by figuring out (in a tongue-in-cheek fashion) what I’ve been doing wrong all these years. Seriously, January got moving with my look at what my top 5 monoblogue music artists over the last four years have been up to and kicked into political gear with the annual countdown to terror.

That terror got underway quickly as General Assembly Democrats slapped down a Hogan veto and made employers sick. And the campaign wasn’t ignored either as Democrat Ben Jealous made some chicken poop claims and I had to dredge up my old sidebars.

I also found out our neighbors to the north were doing something right and got around to revealing perhaps my most unusual story idea ever from a Christmas card. I made the plea for common sense to wrap January, and as February dawned I found out my original pick for President in 2016 had put some in the Wall Street Journal with a piece on the post-2020 GOP. Later that month I got to play the Lord’s advocate (a refreshing change) but still had to lecture people that, in the aftermath of the Parkland massacre, guns aren’t the problem.

It took me awhile, but I got March backwards: it came in like a Lamb. In light of Conor Lamb’s surprise special election win I asked if a Lamb would be slaughtered in the First District. (Turns out his clone was.) It wasn’t as backwards as the furious backpedaling a number of Maryland Republicans made once their votes on the “red flag” bill were revealed, though.

It was the spring of my discontent with the state of the ballot as well, but it did give me an opportunity to go into some website plans – which, by the way, were delayed to an extent but now may be closer to realization thanks to a nice Christmas gift I received.

The month of April began by planting a farmer’s lament, but moved quickly into a look at our federal races. That was short-lived because I had to remind people that, in 2018, we determined General Assembly session winners and losers months after session was over. I also spent a perfectly good Saturday seeing the dregs of the Democrat gubernatorial field go through the motions of a debate at Salisbury University. (Combined, those who showed ended up with 24.7% of the vote, so dregs it was.)

The next week I spent a perfectly good Friday evening downtown, giving me the opportunity to put my thoughts on 3rd Friday to pixels.

Honestly, May wasn’t much to write home about, since I did a lot of repetitive items like record reviews, odds and ends, and the return of the Shorebirds of the Month. But I found time to address a critic and return to a tradition of detailing my Memorial Day weekend.

I didn’t have a June swoon this year, thank goodness. Instead I got revved up talking about wind energy, releasing the final Maryland edition of the monoblogue Accountability Project, making my endorsement in the state’s U.S. Senate race, and advising those vying for Central Committees across the state how to be a successful member. I also took the time to spin a tale of two events.

July began when I revealed my worst-kept secret: I have an agenda. In this case, it was a chance meeting with the Governor as an opportunity to promote school choice. It was much better to write that than it was a litany of big spending that some other guy running for the job had on his platform: I covered two of the most egregious examples during the month. But I got to see both gentlemen at the latest rendition of a long-standing political event – honestly, though, the runup to the Delaware primary was more interesting to write about.

And I wasn’t through with the First State, restarting a long-dormant series with an outdoor show featuring a Christian band and spending a night at the fair.

Speaking of fairs, I took two August posts to recount the Wicomico County version. But I also returned to politics with the announcement of my Delaware version of the mAP and another part of shooting fish in a barrel – some may call it a platform critique. It was already getting tiresome, so I spent some energy digging into where an “independent” campaign got its money.

In September I finally put that platform critique to bed because the Jealous campaign was going nowhere anyway. With Neal Simon’s campaign as inspiration, I took closer looks at financials on several groups of races: Wicomico County campaigns, District 37, and the most interesting one of all: District 38. By month’s end, that District 38 money was ending up in my mailbox as full-color mailers.

Once again I revived the tradition of remembering 9/11, but on a more light-hearted note I selected my Shorebird of the Year (going off the board, so to speak) and expressed my picks and pans as a Shorebirds fan. I even found time for more odds and ends.

October was a crazy busy month that focused on different angles for the election: people who couldn’t be bothered to file required campaign finance reports, neat ways to convert poll data to votes (as well as a second helping), critiques of mailing after mailing after mailing, and a direct comparison of voting records in the District 38 race over the last four-year term. One of those contenders also got a supportive visit from the Governor while our Congressman came to say a word for the U.S. Senate candidate. But I also found time for yet more odds and ends as well as October traditions the Good Beer Festival and Autumn Wine Festival as well as the GBF and AWF music as Weekend of Local Rock pieces. I also supported a great cause with a funny guy.

We all know what happened in November, and the election hits kept coming: a look at early voting, pregame thoughts, and two parts of immediate postgame analysis for starters – and, of course, associated odds and ends with the campaigns. Then I took a few mental health days before returning with my Thanksgiving message and shopping advice for Cyber Monday.

Wrapping up in December, I began the end-of-year watch by writing about my moody teenager and performing one of my favorite tasks: inducting new members for and updating my Shorebird of the Week Hall of Fame. Speaking of baseball, I opined on how Salisbury could be a better minor league town, too.

But the year’s last month brought a new look to odds and ends (and the site in general.) I also got to compare the Indivisible movement to the TEA Party (which relates to my forthcoming book, which also got a placeholder website during 2018) and provided the other usual year-end goodies of my Christmas message and top 5 records I reviewed for the year.

So that is how 2018 went. With a couple days to go, I’m some significant number of degrees of Rushalanches away from readership in my halcyon decade of 2007-16. Hey, at least I made 5 digits at 10,372, but then I really don’t promote the site on social media anymore, have fewer posts to link to, and found that people don’t think of me as much for political horserace analysis and advice nowadays – in large part because I’ve consciously stepped away from that scene. While I devoted a large part of my year to Campaign 2018, I was only made more jaded and cynical from the results and the easy manipulation of the electorate by “fake news” such as the overwhelmingly negative coverage of President Trump. If people don’t get the concept that fewer regulations and lower taxes at the federal level makes life better for them because they have more freedom to choose how they live their lives and spend the money they earned – well, I don’t know how else to help them. Lord knows I couldn’t influence the formerly Republican-held House to do its stated task of eliminating Obamacare.

So I’ll look closer to home, as perhaps I should have all along. If the Good Lord is willing to provide and answer my prayers in a positive manner, 2019 has the prospect of being an exciting year for me: a new (or new to us) home across the border, and the release of my second book The Rise and Fall of the TEA Party, which has already received a glowing pre-review from a major early participant.

Granted, there will be the fun of watching Democrat presidential contenders try to leapfrog farther and farther to the left. (Well, it’s fun until someone gets hurt or – Heaven forbid – we actually elect one of them.) Let the whole host of them try to appease the Indivisible Left, splitting the vote from the progressive wing while the establishment Democrat wins the nomination – just like the 2012 GOP Presidential race with the TEA Party. And Lord help us all if Hillary runs again.

But I’m really looking forward to the personal things I described two paragraphs ago. Over the last couple years this blog has sort of evolved from a political diary to a more personal one, reflecting (as always) what interests me and prompts me to write. So as 2019 dawns I wish it to be your best year ever, despite the seeds of chaos that will be sown by forces of darkness.

Wishes for a Merry Christmas 2018

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.

And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.

And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.

And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.

But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.

And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.

Luke 2:8-20 (KJV)

I’m not going to write a lot about this Christmas season, preferring instead to simply wish you a merry one. As usual, mine will be spent with Kim’s family so the site will be dark tomorrow.

Teenage angst: monoblogue turns thirteen

To the consternation of many, this website has survived another year.

Considering the frequency over the last year nearly matches that of the year before, it appears I have found my comfort level of posting that averages out as twice a week. It’s likely the days of daily content are behind me given the circumstances in which I find myself: while the first three years of monoblogue were done with me having a full-time job, I also was single – so what else did I have to do besides blog? Now I have a great wife and take time out of my week for bowling (while that was an activity I did pre-marriage as well, it was easier to write with bowling on Friday nights as opposed to midweek) and small group at church to go with the full-time gig. Until recently there was also this book thing going on, too.

But when I look back at all the things I have done and written about, vast portions don’t seem as important as they once were. The hot takes have gone cold, the newsmakers are making news elsewhere, and yesterday’s political flavor du jour is today’s ant heap of history. But there are posts that I still like to consider as a diary of sorts, and they’re generally my photographic posts. An ongoing project I can hopefully get back to is that of salvaging as many posts as I can where the photos were lost thanks to the demise of the old Adobe photo service. Those who say the internet is forever, though, never followed the dead links to my Examiner pages where half my good stuff was placed. I think this is the year I’m going to try and set the record straight.

You know as well as I do that politics has been my site’s bread and butter from the very beginning. But frankly I am just sick and tired of the whole thing and my growing distaste of social media isn’t too far behind it. Sometimes I feel like I’ve given months or even years of my life to try and convince people who can’t be convinced, just like leading horses to water and watching them turn up their noses. Call me jaded or accuse me of a lack of empathy, but I’ve stopped caring whether they die of thirst or not and I’m arriving at the point where I think I need a different and more productive obsession. Add to that the whole “fake news” phenomenon and the increasing difficulty of using social media to build an audience and maybe it is time to set that whole thing aside. (My website kept screeching that it can’t properly connect to Facebook, so I bagged the connection. It’s a sign.)

I suppose one thing I may get to in the next year is my 5,000th post. Had I stayed on my frenetic pre-2016 pace I would have likely blown by that mark around the middle of last year but at 100 or so posts a year it might be the middle of next year. And that’s all right with me.

Perhaps it wasn’t in the cards for me to be a world-famous writer who made his fortune with a simple blog of his questions, problems, thoughts, opinions, or comments (to paraphrase Mr. Geer, my freshman science teacher.) But it doesn’t mean I can’t try to make this the best blog I can, and one of those aspects is writing about things that interest me in such a fashion that I don’t lose any sleep at night worrying.

In the more immediate future I have some final record reviews to write to finish the year and my Shorebird of the Week Hall of Fame has some new players – ones that can finish filling out a 40-man roster. I may not be as political but I still have some old standards to work on as I begin year number fourteen.

Happy Thanksgiving 2018

In Ecclesiastes 1:9 we are told “there is no new thing under the sun.” This Biblical line is well-suited for my message this year, as I was tempted to put last year‘s back up because it pretty much still applies. I still like growing older with my wife.

I suppose, though, there are some things that have changed, even if they’re not really new. Since matters electoral remain the bread and butter of my writing it’s worth noting that politically we are entering a brave new world of divided government under a populist Republican president – the last time that happened I was still in college. (That, kids, was a looooong time ago.) I guess I should be thankful the “blue wave” didn’t crest as high as once thought.

One thing about our present climate still bothers me, though. Too many people can’t get along because they see the political registration, hear the wrong talking points, or walk around in different colored hats. It seems lately, though, that I talk online quite a bit more to Democrats than I do Republicans. (Those folks I catch offline, as you’ll find why in a bit.) Sure, the Democrats know I’m barely left of militia but we can talk about issues and choose to disagree or occasionally even find a patch of common ground. It’s a good balance because most of my church family leans to the right, and I’m sure a few of them may, from time to time, fall short when it comes to decorum with those on the other side politically. I try not to, although the “progressives” make it difficult sometimes!

So I suppose that besides the obvious blessings I have of food, family, friends, a steady place of employment, and roof over my head, I should give great thanks for being blessed with the insight to see beyond the political labels and into the content of character. I can’t say I’m completely immune from getting my exercise through jumping to conclusions, but I feel like I’m getting better about it. Heck, even my in-laws don’t always agree with me but we still get along all right.

Anyway, I am going to conclude by taking one bit of license from previous writing because I still like the material:

Some of our prayers are simple expressions of thanks for His works, and it’s with that in mind that I hope you share today that which you are thankful for with our Creator. I understand for some that list may be far too short, and for others I’ll grant that they haven’t quite learned their long list of blessings is there in no small part thanks to His intercession. (I think He is certainly approving of the endeavors and efforts one undertakes in pursuit of those blessings, though.)

So I pray that all of you have a wonderful and blessed Thanksgiving. Enjoy your dinner, friends, and family, and (above all) count your blessings.

Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice. (Philippians 4:4)

Reviving the circle of life

Last Thursday night I had the opportunity to assist a great local cause and ministry, the Eastern Shore Pregnancy Center.

Now I’m probably not the best at relating to mothers or fathers-to-be in need, which is among the things they do. But I can laugh with the best of them (and sign a check) and that’s what I did a lot of that special evening – okay, one check but plenty of laughing. It’s something I will get to in due course.

When I last wrote about one of these events three years ago, they had a somewhat different approach to the issue of fundraising and securing a speaker: generally it was a message from someone who combined the desired Biblical message with a significant helping of appeal for donations. That’s not to say it wasn’t a good formula, but perhaps it was a formula getting less and less effective. (Which probably explains in part why I didn’t do a post on the 2016 event, the last time I attended.)

So I liked the change in format as well as location, as they have moved to the more intimate parish hall at St. Francis de Sales Catholic Church in Salisbury. (It also meant the dinner was a lot better, as Black Diamond Catering did a fantastic job.) I’m hoping the results made this nice lady’s ministry a lot easier.

“By the grace of God, at least 60 babies have been saved” in the past year, said ESPC director Jackie Seldon.

The goal was compatible with that which I recalled from previous years, and I made sure to share a little more of those blessings I received this year. What they shared was the testimony of one of their clients and her mentor through the experience, and as Seldon noted the ESPC has now been around long enough that they are beginning to see second-generation client families.

I don’t recall the exact reason I failed to attend last year’s event, but among the things I missed was this gentleman’s debut with the Labor of Love banquet.

Repeat parenting offender and comedian Gordon Douglas was the featured performer.

Once named (with his wife, of course) as a Parent of the Year in Pennsylvania, Gordon Douglas had some unique takes on parenting, and – more importantly – the blessing of being a good and caring person.

The part of the story that captivated me was how he got started in the business of parenting. (The comedy part in Hollywood is interesting, too, but I don’t recall all the names he dropped and that’s not the red meat of this narrative, anyway.) I just hope I’m doing justice to the story in a few hundred words and so-so memory.

As a teenager Gordon was the same rail-thin self he is now, but was not particularly athletic or popular and had an impoverished upbringing because his disabled father could not work. Thus, it was perhaps understandable that Gordon wrote a school paper detailing his questioning why he should go on living when the “best time of his life” was so miserable. What did he have to look forward to?

Perhaps Gordon had a guardian angel, for the teacher grading the paper took him under his wing and gave him the encouragement he needed – not to say that it was all smooth sailing from there, as there were other funny mishaps in his high school days and then his young adult life once he got married. But because he found a mentor at his lowest point, when Gordon got started on his initial career in youth ministry he had business cards with three things: his name, his phone number, and a quarter taped to them. The message was: if you needed someone to talk to, he would be there, day or night. Soon enough a 14-year old with a terrible home life called him up, and when he went to ask the parents if the boy could stay overnight, the parents said, “Keep him.”

So he did. For Gordon and his wife, this boy was the first of many children they took in. Besides, when you desire children and are told you can’t have them, what’s the next best thing? Well, that is, until you have a miracle and don’t stop until you have five.

To make what was a long story much, much shorter: between children, wayward young adults, and even a couple prisoners they’ve taken in from the detention center (“you can’t tell it’s them if you don’t see their ankle bracelets”) there are upwards of two dozen kids they’ve taken care of over the years. Some couples have the baseball batting order, but the Douglases filled out the whole roster.

Needless to say, it was a great story, I also had the pleasure of speaking to him afterward as I offered to make him famous. (Or, I guess, infamous, depending on your perspective of this website.)

Gordon was also a quick change artist. Actually, he had copies of his printed and recorded works on sale, and some folks (myself included) got autographed copies. There’s nothing wrong with some entrepreneurial spirit, and hopefully he’s sold many more books than I have!

It should be noted that Gordon comes by this specialty of assisting pregnancy centers like the ESPC naturally as he served for many years on the board of his local pregnancy center. Now he helps others with his comedic talent, although he pointed out that when he started there were 4,000 Planned Parenthood facilities and 300 pregnancy centers, but now the numbers are becoming reversed, which is a blessing.

I stayed awhile afterward to see if the ESPC made its goal, but had to leave in order to finish one of my other jobs (on deadline writing for The Patriot Post) before I could find out. But if I find out in the coming days what the total was I’ll certainly update the post.

Of course, it doesn’t mean you can’t help them out yourself, as the ESPC definitely serves the least of us, as in the message of Matthew 25:35-40. Or put in a somewhat more secular way: to have the pursuit of happiness you need liberty, but to have liberty you must have life. They’re put in a specific order for a reason, so I encourage the support of these budding lives where I can.

Weekend of local rock volume 73

For this installment I return with a look at some of the music from the Good Beer Festival. Unfortunately I missed the more enticing (to me) half of the music on Friday evening – a lineup that featured The Permilla Project, Anthony Calamoneri, Uprizing, and Petting Hendrix.

These festivals always provide a helpful musical guide. It makes the job of a blogger so much easier.

So the first act of my day there was the solo artist Winship.

Winship is a solo artist, but he set a pretty good mood for beer tasting.

What I will say about him is that he was good, but not particularly memorable good. I think part of that was getting my food while he was playing, which meant I wasn’t always close by the stage. He would have been a good fit for the old “bar stage,” which used to be a home for acoustic acts before they consolidated stages. I guess I’ll go with “elevated but easygoing style.”

Next up was the band billed as the Mark DeRose Band.

The sign said Mark DeRose Band, but Mark said it was Dreadnought Brigade. I like that better anyway.

Dreadnought Brigade was the band I actually got to sit down and listen to, and I enjoyed them. While they did a sampling of originals, they made a lot of friends by putting a good spin on classics like The Way It Is (the old Bruce Hornsby song), Jet Airliner (Steve Miller) and a neat version of the Johnny Cash tune Ring of Fire.

The next band may have grown up listening to Johnny Cash, but they were far more modern.

I was talking to someone when Six Pack Rodeo came out. If the name didn’t give them away, the hats did.

I gotta be honest with you…modern country isn’t my cup of tea. They went over with me like a can of Bud Light would in the middle of this beer festival. Yeah, I remember Six Pack Rodeo playing a Skynard cover but I had pretty much tuned them out by the time I left. I’m sure they’re nice guys and solid musicians but I wasn’t into it.

Like I said, Friday presented the better musical options, although as part of what seemed like excessive cost cutting they dropped a half-hour of music off each day of the GBF (not to mention the dual stages a couple years back.) But one thing I can say is that they avoided using overly local bands for the Saturday show as two hailed from Virginia and one from Pennsylvania. (Speaking of bands from the Keystone State, it’s a shame that Smokin’ Gunnz is no more because they would have filled that last slot really well.)

So the next WLR installment for tomorrow talks about the Autumn Wine Festival, but I will have a special (and appropriate for the day) added surprise.

2018 Autumn Wine Festival in pictures and text

Just like the Good Beer Festival last week, my photographic series on the Autumn Wine Festival returns after a three-year hiatus. And like the GBF, a lot has changed over the last three years, but not necessarily for the better. The best thing is that it gives me a break from political posts.

Once again, I can allow the captions to help tell the story.

As we arrived about 1:30, the party was already underway despite a blustery, chilly Sunday.

I’m not going to have a ton of photos this year. Unlike other years when I was somewhat of a captive to the event as the guy who coordinated the GOP tent for almost a decade and hence was there almost the entire time, this time I was a “civilian” who was simply serving as DD for my wife and generally just tagged along for about 2 1/2 hours Sunday – enough to get a flavor of the place. So a lot of my photos were taken of the two bands I saw as part of an upcoming WLR segment.

Speaking of political hostages…

Notice anything missing? The Democrats didn’t have a tent – however, they were not the only ones baring it in the sunshine.

This was the Democrats’ space. In looking at it in the photo, I’m wondering how much extra property they took outside the 10′ x 15′ square you’re usually assigned to get all those signs up – including perhaps the only two Ben Jealous signs in Wicomico County. (Okay, I’m kidding on Jealous – but I don’t think I’m kidding by much.) But seriously – it looks like they are way outside their boundaries.

Shawn Jester (behind table), Woody Willing, and a little of my finger were representing for the GOP.

By comparison, the GOP wasn’t overstepping by too much. They had a reasonable business going, but not spectacular. Nor did I see a whole bunch of folks at the competing spaces for Bo McAllister and Chris Welch. I got Welch’s space in the photo below.

On the left is the tentless space of Chris Welch, whose crew abandoned the tent on Sunday morning thanks to the high winds.

I thought I caught McAllister’s tent in a shot but it turns out I did not. It was just to the right of this photo, and you can see the dearth of people on this side.

Just off the right side of the photo would have been Bo McAllister’s tent. By the time 3:30 rolled around this end was about dead.

I’m looking up toward the food court here. The arrangement was somewhat similar to the GBF as far as the food and stage were concerned.

I will say the food selection was excellent. I tried a place called The Street Kitchen, which is the white truck way off in the background of the shot – good pulled pork and outstanding slaw some may kill for. Come on back to the next festival!

Unlike last week, those who wanted to sit and watch the game on a comfy couch were indulged. Or maybe they had the Hallmark Channel on, I dunno.

One thing I did before piecing this post together was read my previous posts (2007-15) from the AWF. (2007 was the first year I worked it, so the cool thing is the institutional knowledge – which will get even better when I dig up the photos missing from a couple of those years.) Once upon a time they had a VIP area, so I wonder why they did away with it?

The real VIP area on this day would have been smack dab in front of this fireplace. If you could see the stage from this spot I think there would have been a whole cast of people camped out there – including me!

Here is another vendor who can come back. I walked by there coming in and felt the heat.

I noted the stage in my last caption. These are views looking toward the front of the stage at 3:00 and 3:30.

They were already beginning to camp out in front of the stage by 3.

I’m looking down from the south end of the winery tents toward the stage. People had pretty much vanished from the end tents by 3:30-4:00.

Even the lines to the porta-potties were practically non-existent by the time we left, right around 4:00. To be perfectly honest, the vendors could have packed it in about 3:30 and Kim said a couple were.

So I took some shots of signs and wine bottles I liked.

Love the play on a phrase.

New variations on the old Gollywobbler theme. It’s a popular drink.

The old sun + wine bottles shot, in this case courtesy of il Dolce Winery.

Olney Winery had the neatest bottles, though.

In speaking to a vendor (in this case, the wife of a candidate) I was told they had 2,400 people there Saturday – in that case it seems like a down crowd. Granted, it was cloudy but it was also about 10 degrees warmer and about 1/4 as windy. According to the vendor application, though, the county expects an attendance of 3,500 for the weekend.

So I think they were probably about there, and even though I’m not a great judge of crowds it’s sort of sad to see the lowered expectations. In doing some digging I found out the event eight years ago drew 4,651 (and the first-ever GBF had 2,378.) But the problem for the vendors is that they need to sell probably a net $500 worth of merchandise just to cover all the fees associated with the event, let alone make up for the time. My older pictures of the event show long rows of vendor tents, but this year’s had some large gaps in them.

And when you think about it, what is the county providing? It’s their property, but it’s paid for. You have to pay for two nights of security and rent of generators for a couple days as well as pay the talent and for the printing of the tickets, I know this (as well as the GBF) is supposed to be a fundraiser, so then the question becomes how cheap is too cheap?

I’m a guy and I don’t drink wine, so right there I seem to be eliminated from their target audience as Women Supporting Women is a lead sponsor. But I am also the DD for someone who is in their target audience, so you may want to rethink a couple things next year.

In the more immediate future I’m thinking you’ll see two WLR posts over the weekend as I clear out that docket.

2018 Good Beer Festival in pictures and text

It’s been a few years since I got to share my experience at the GBF, for various reasons: I involuntarily skipped the 2016 event (because I couldn’t go that Saturday and Sunday was rained out) and last year I went but lost all my photos when my phone crapped out a few days later. So since the last time I got to do such a post a whole lot has changed – including the captions I can add.

I’m going to begin by thanking my DD, who is better known to most as my wife. She got this photo coming in to pick me up.

We were nicely welcomed to the grounds of Pemberton Park. You can tell she was coming to pick me up by the sunshine. Photo by Kim Corkran.

One major difference was having the GBF move to a Friday evening – Saturday schedule. From what I could gather from asking around, attendance Friday night was decent but not earthshattering – probably akin to a normal Sunday. But since photography isn’t nearly as good at night and being an amateur photojournalist is half the fun for me at the GBF, I chose to only attend Saturday.

I arrived there a little after noon for a 12:30 opening and the crowd was pretty strong already.

They added a few different games for the people to try, like the large-scale beer pong and unique bowling alley.

This is harder than it looks. I think I’ll stick to the bowling where they return the ball to me.

It was a modest beginning to the day. Seemed like a lot of people in line, but once they scattered it looked a lot emptier.

This is the local beer garden. It seemed to me that there were a larger proportion of local breweries vs. out-of-towners than before.

The beer garden from the “back” end.

If there’s one thing the GBF was not hurting for, it was food. This didn’t catch every food vendor, either – there were a couple around the corner.

I had a really good brat with peppers and onions. My only suggestion would be to get real Polish kielbasa for the sandwich.

On Friday night, this was the karaoke barn. On Saturday college football ruled the day.

It used to be that they had couches and comfy furniture at The Pub. Maybe that’s why no one was in there.

This was one of a few tents with the non-local breweries.

The first beer tent I stopped at, a half-hour in. I tried a couple, but missed out on the cider when I went back later. Bummer.

Not that I needed a map, but this was the substitute for the guides they used to give out.

It wasn’t Google, but it did the trick.

The problem with not having the guides (although most of us don’t carry a pen around, either) is that I had nothing but my phone on which to write down the ones I liked. As I’ll expand on later, though, they were few and far between.

Of course I stopped by to see my friend Shawn Jester, the leader of the local Republican club. It was his turn to be the hostest with the mostest.

I guess you can call this my old stomping grounds. It was nice to be on the outside, though.

Being a local election year, I was very surprised to not see them on the GBF video I saw from Friday night. Shawn explained that flooding at the warehouse where their items are kept put the kibosh on getting set up before the event, so they came early Saturday morning. Nor was the GOP weren’t the only vacancy, as there were a couple other open spots.

However, it’s worth noting that both Clerk of Court candidates were there: Bo McAllister was set up to the left of the GOP a few spots down and Chris Welsh to the right. It was good because I finally got to speak with Chris.

The aforementioned McAllister tent is third on the left, red with the orange tablecloth. An hour in and the crowds were still modest.

The Lions Club ran the cornhole tournament, which seemed to draw decent enough interest. There was usually someone playing as I walked by.

Not sure who won or how much the Lions Club made, but hopefully it was a successful run.

Finally, the sun came out and the crowds came out of nowhere to frequent the beer garden. This was taken about 2:30, two hours in.

Once the sun came out, so did the people.

Among that larger crowd: someone with a hat like this comes every year.

This is always a fun look.

Remember that shot I took of the back of the beer garden? By 4:00 the place was hopping.

Where did all these people come from? Too bad the event was over in an hour or so.

Even the human foosball was finally happening.

Human foosball. That sounds like a way to work off those alcohol calories.

I had to leave about 4:00 when the event ended at 5:30 because of a family event. So here’s my parting shot, photography-wise.

Still going at 4 p.m.

Now that I’m through with the photos, it leaves room for a few thoughts.

I really can’t be a judge of how it went Friday night because I wasn’t there. But to me the issue with doing the event in this manner is that it discourages tourism – if you live across the bridge you would have to take off a half-day to attend and I don’t think all that many are willing to do so – particularly if Saturday looks bad weather-wise. I guess they were trying for a 3rd Friday vibe but I’m doubtful they succeeded. Nor did I think going to this sort of event after sunset was a smart play, particularly barely 24 hours after a torrential downpour from Tropical Storm Michael. (Notice the amount of straw in the photos.) Unfortunately, it meant I missed the better of the bands.

And speaking of that: I truly miss the two-stage setup. Sure, it left room for the games on one end but those were really underutilized. And they actually could have placed the main stage on the south end, kept the karaoke tent on the north end, and used that as the side stage. I guess as a cost-cutting move they hire fewer bands by having one stage.

In reading my older posts on the GBF, it’s apparent that either the number of breweries represented has declined somewhat or they are just not doing as many varieties. It was said there were 100 beers on tap, which may have been the case: but do you have to have half or more be IPAs? There are those of us who like the lagers, pilsners, blonde ales, and hefeweisens just as others like the stouts and dark brews. I felt a little underrepresented, although there were also a smaller number of pumpkin beers there, thank goodness. Of course, without a booklet guide it was hard to see where I wanted to go and what to try.

I also don’t know if you increased the vendor price but that seemed to be lacking, too. Granted, my experience was as a non-profit so our rules were a little different but the row of vendors seemed to be more anemic this time around. I also liked the previous practice of having the local beer garden more defined instead of just seemingly a random segment of tents that were clustered together.

I guess it’s time to stop beating around the bush with this piece: this year it felt like the GBF was the red-headed stepchild no one wants (not the craft brew of the same name.)

It seems like a whole lot of corners were cut this time around: for example, they always wanted the setup to be on Friday but having a Saturday-Sunday event meant two nights of security. Shift Sunday to Friday night and suddenly you only need one night of security, plus the lights that had to be there anyway could be taken down early Saturday night once the breweries were broke down.

Or make the Pub a karaoke tent and now you don’t need to rent a lot of seating. They’ve done one stage for a couple years, anyway, but by chopping time off each day of the event (it was a 5 1/2 hour window on Friday and 5 hour window on Saturday, instead of six both days) and cutting off the band time even further by the bands wrapping up a half-hour before the “official” end they’ve succeeded in cutting maybe 11 hours of live music down to eight. But you still have to have the sound set up so why cut the music?

When we lost Pork in the Park after a fairly successful run, we were told it was because the county wanted to concentrate on its other event held at Winterplace, the Wicomico County Fair. But the writing on the wall for Pork in the Park came a few years earlier after they mismanaged one year’s event into a cluster that angered a good number of vendors, then decided to double the admission price in the hopes a more well-known musical act may save the day. When neither worked, they downsized the event too much and never got the momentum back; meanwhile, our food tastes moved away from barbecue and on to other things. Now we have no such festivals when for a few years two had reasonable success.

I’m surprised to find that Maryland is one of the least successful states for craft beer – perhaps due to antiquated laws or just a population group that prefers other adult beverages. (By contrast, Delaware is a heavy-drinking state.) Another interesting fact: excluding Prohibition, the number of breweries in America hit its all-time low in 1978, when there were only 89. (Now just between Maryland and Delaware there are 94, a small segment of 6,372 American breweries listed in 2017.)

But at some point we will reach saturation. Remember how there were so many coffeehouses two decades ago? There is still a thirst for coffee, but the industry has consolidated: there are a few major players, particularly Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts, while regional and local shops such as Rise Up or Pemberton Coffeehouse remain as well. I suspect we are ready for a similar shakeout in breweries because tastes change and markets are fluid.

By the same token, where the Good Beer Festival was a rather unique event on its founding eight years ago, there are now beer festivals occurring in this region most weekends between spring and fall. Basically, I think the Good Beer Festival needs to become more of a destination: instead of dropping Sunday to add Friday night, go the opposite way and make it a whole weekend. Go back to multiple stages for music and catch those good up-and-coming regional acts like you did when you began. Perhaps try to get more beer-related vendors there, almost like a trade show. I think there can be a larger tent on the south end just for them so that aspect can be rain or shine.

By doing this and expanding the scope, you create an event that people interested in craft brewing regionally may want to spend the weekend at, sort of like how Pork in the Park used to attract BBQ teams from a wide area – except these folks won’t be camping outside cooking pigs, they’ll be using our lodging and eating at our other restaurants after hours – speaking of which, why not a 5:00 to 10:30 Friday, noon to 10:30 Saturday, noon to 5 Sunday event? Make it worthwhile.

Oh, and one more thing (and I can’t believe I’m saying this): they need to put a little fill line back on the cup. Maybe others need the full shot glass to taste, but I can get a good enough swallow with a half-shot to know whether I like it or not. People that stand at a tent and try six different brews have basically just consumed half a six-pack when it comes to alcohol (since craft beer is generally stronger.) I didn’t see too many unsteady people being held up by their friends yesterday but I didn’t stay until the end either.

The event this weekend came dangerously close to “meh…” for me, and if 40 people feel that way and stop showing up that’s $1,000 less the event brings in. As this is a fundraiser, one would think they would work on maximizing revenue by making it more attractive rather than get overly greedy for a subpar event or nickel-and-dime it to death like they did with Pork in the Park.

Oh, and I didn’t forget the music. There is a WLR upcoming from this, too.

Picks and pans from a Shorebird fan – 2018 edition

On August 30, the Delmarva Shorebirds were in a precarious position. But thanks to the prospect of free stuff through a Fan Appreciation Night raffle and a rare Thursday night fireworks show, a crowd of over 6,000 gathered to send the team off to its final road trip to Lakewood. Thus, by a margin of 1,330 fans the Shorebirds avoided their first-ever season where fewer than 200,000 attended the games.

One could blame the locally subpar spring and summer weather – a chilly April turned into a rainy summer that always seemed to time precipitation for the weekends – for the drop-off from last season’s attendance of 207,131. But you can’t do anything about the weather and we still managed 65 openings, 2 more than the league average. The 3,097 per-game average was the second-lowest in franchise history, besting only the 3,072 in 2011.

Honestly, though, I don’t believe weather was the deciding factor.

If you ask me – and by reading this it’s assumed you want my opinion as a renewed half-season ticket holder – the problem lies with the onfield product.

Over the weekend, with a little downtime from spending it with my grandson and his side of my family, I did a little catching up on the SAL to find that Lexington pulled a bit of an upset to win the SAL flag in four games over Lakewood. It was the end of a decade-plus drought for the Legends and it put Delmarva in yet another unique but dubious position: thanks to Lexington’s winning the second half SAL South title it meant that since 2013 every other franchise in the SAL has been in the playoffs at least once. And if you toss out Augusta (last appearance in 2013) the other twelve have made at least once it in just the last four seasons. Toss darts at a dartboard and you should get that sort of probability given two teams from each seven-team division qualify each year, so we must have a special kind of bad karma to miss the playoffs thirteen seasons in a row, and counting.

So I think it’s safe to say that the on-field product provided by the Orioles is lacking, especially since not a single one of their seven minor-league affiliates made the post-season this year. And it’s not just recent history: our “feeder” team in Aberdeen has made the NY-Penn League postseason exactly once in 17 seasons, only to be bounced out in the opening round. (That 2013 Ironbird team had six future SotW Hall of Fame players on the regular roster, as it comprised the base of our 2014 Shorebird team that has the most members of the SotWHoF.) Of course, we’re not going to scrap the Oriole affiliation any time soon so we have to hope that a renewed focus on Baltimore’s international scouting and player development bears fruit 2-3 years from now when these young players reach the full-season A-ball level.

But I also believe their development program is wrong. There are some franchises that develop players as individuals, and some that seem to emphasize winning more. Unfortunately, the “Oriole Way” hasn’t been a winning way since the halcyon days of a half-century ago.

I sat down with one of my favorite websites (Baseball-Reference.com) and did some research on how Oriole affiliates fared in the era when the Orioles were regularly successful – basically from the early 1960’s to the early 1980’s. As they went, oftentimes so did their affiliates:

Their lowest-level team in Bluefield had the Appalachian League’s best record or won its division 6 times in 14 seasons from 1963-76.

At the time, their A ball team was in Miami (before MLB expansion gave that city the latter-day edition of the Miami Marlins) and the Marlins/Orioles won their Florida State League division 8 times in 11 seasons from 1968-78.

At the AA level, the affiliation moved several times during that era: from Elmira, New York, then of the Eastern League (1963-68), to Dallas-Fort Worth of the Texas League/Dixie Association (1969-71, until the Washington Senators relocated to that metroplex and became the Texas Rangers), then on to Asheville of the reformed Southern League (1972-75) before the franchise moved to Charlotte for the 1976 season, remaining in the Southern League. But in 14 seasons their AA affiliate was 1st or 2nd in their division 11 times.

Finally, at the AAA level Rochester made the International League playoffs (top 4 qualify) 10 times in 11 seasons from 1966-76.

Obviously at that time the “Oriole Way” was as much about winning games and division/league titles as it was player development. Now they seem to be happy with winning a random league title now and then, and it seems like random doesn’t come our way: we get good players for a few weeks and they are gone to Frederick.

I believe winning comes from a culture where you are expected to win: look at the Patriots or Steelers in the NFL or, closer to home, Salisbury University’s lacrosse program. They don’t seem to accept anything less than a winning effort. The Orioles seem to be fine with developing a player like Manny Machado, Dylan Bundy, or Trey Mancini every year or two (or guys that they trade away for a rare playoff push like Josh Hader, Eduardo Rodriguez, or Zach Davies) but maybe at the expense of the organization players who make up good teams.

So a sea change in attitude at the top is first on the wish list. Now I want to focus a little more locally.

As a half-season ticket holder, I have to say I’m very satisfied with the flexibility I have. Sometimes Kim wants to go to a game so the exchange policy is great – I don’t mind taking a vacation from my spot sometimes. The staff will generally bend over backwards for me, too. And aside from keeping some of the lame video promotions, I do like what they are doing with the interactive aspect of the now two-year-old videoboard. The “Shore Report” is a neat feature made possible by the investment in video equipment, so we can all “turn and watch it go!”

But I have to say that my other big complaint is the food, which has been a pan of mine for at least the last couple years. I don’t often eat at the ballpark, but on those occasions when I did I was too often disappointed with the quality and freshness of what I was served. For example, a hot dog would come with a stale bun, or the fries were too salty.

Adding to the frustration was the lack of availability of some products. A slice of the specialty pizza sounded good – but it wasn’t available that night. I wanted a lid for my souvenir cup, but they were out.

And then I heard horror stories about the wait time on some nights, particularly the scrapple night. Kim got a scrapple sandwich that she had to take back. I think it literally took her 2 1/2 to 3 innings to get back to her seat for a sandwich she still wasn’t really satisfied with. Granted, it was a special night and newly-created menu but that seems to me an issue with management not preparing staff properly.

A bad experience like that, along with a mediocre team that faded not once, but twice, after great starts, isn’t the best way to put casual fans in the seats. Granted, I don’t mind it so much when it’s just the diehards like me but if it comes down to having just them we eventually have an empty stadium because there are fewer and fewer rabid fans each season. Go and count the empty seats in Baltimore for one of their games of late to see what I mean – two straight losing seasons (as well as 14 of the previous 19) and the prospect of rebuilding from just about scratch thanks to a barren minor league system have taken their toll on attendance and interest. A humdrum, bottom-feeding team that plays at a stadium that doesn’t seem to have a great deal to offer in either food or amenities isn’t going to draw well, either. How many of those kids and families who get the “Hit the Books” free tickets in April and May come back over the summer?

However, with the promised construction of the 360-degree concourse on the horizon this off-season, we now have new opportunities for food and entertainment. And maybe it’s time to re-imagine things on an even broader scale.

If the new concourse is designed properly, not only does it open up the possibility of new and different vendors in those locations (imagine covered areas with local vendors, similar in style to a food truck) but even a venue for post-game concerts and entertainment. I know I’ve spoken to Chris Bitters about this as it related to another topic, but maybe it doesn’t necessarily have to be the full-blown shows of years past – maybe a diet of local solo performers can be the impetus to bigger and better things down the road.

And down the road is what I’m thinking of for the broader scale. What if that location were the linchpin of a new entertainment venue?

Once upon a time, I was part of a big dream: the idea of creating a hotel and office park along Hobbs Road, straddling the exit ramp from U.S. 13. Because of the work I helped to do, there’s infrastructure in place to develop the site, even though the collapse of the building market prevented further development a decade ago. They are discussing the site for usage as a new Sheriff’s office, but I must say to waste the opportunity for developing this site as an eating and entertainment venue to complement Perdue Stadium would be criminal.

One reason downtown stadiums are favored is this very opportunity to develop an year-round entertainment district in an area that has the infrastructure in place. My hometown has something along that line: just down the way from Fifth Third Field (home of the Mud Hens) is the Huntington Center, where the ECHL’s Toledo Walleye play. The two were built about seven years apart, but they function as a way to stretch the season for entrepreneurs who want to serve the half-million-plus Mud Hen fans in the summer and over a quarter-million Walleye hockey “finatics” in the fall and winter. (This doesn’t count the other events the Huntington Center hosts, such as concerts.)

But because Perdue Stadium isn’t close to downtown and plans to replace the Wicomico Youth and Civic Center at the stadium site have been shelved, the synergy has to come from something else. It’s obviously a more modest goal, but why couldn’t the LLC that owns the Shorebirds buy those nearby parcels (there are two, owned by the same LLC) and use their connections to bring in two to three attractions that can feed off having the stadium there? (This is where I would have loved to have a fall league team like the onetime Maryland Fall League that featured the Delmarva Rockfish, to give an extra 20 dates a year for the stadium.) Even some places that a family can go to in the afternoon before the game or a couple can go to afterward would be nice.

Another possibility: the new concourse becomes the passage between the stadium and a new building along the right field line. [Granted, this is a homage to Toledo’s Fifth Third Field (pictured below), although our version need only be tall enough to have the seating and deck overlooking the field.]

If the Orioles can have fireworks in downtown Baltimore, I’m sure something can be worked out in that event.

Certainly I’m glad the Shorebirds are finally going to get the 360-degree concourse they’ve been talking about for the last half-decade. But that should be just the beginning of rebuilding the team both on and off the field to bring back those days where a Shorebird ticket was a hot commodity.

How much will it cost? (Part three of a multi-part series)

Despite the fact he’s trailing by sixteen points in the latest poll, I still think it’s worth the time to dissect the policy proposals of Democrat gubernatorial hopeful Ben Jealous. In recent days, he’s reshuffled his priority list, displacing his previous #1 priority of education and replacing it with a jobs agenda he calls “Make It In Maryland.” As always, though, the devil is in the details.

Jealous begins by complaining that we have fallen behind Virginia in something called the New Economy Index. It turns out, interestingly enough, that Maryland is the bottom of the three states comprising the Delmarva region – although being on the bottom is still sixth-ranked in the nation. Here’s what the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation said about our three states:

Virginia comes in fourth with some of the fastest-growing companies in the country, and its proximity to the nation’s capital attracts high-skilled workers for the numerous R&D-focused firms in the region. Fifth-place Delaware is perhaps the most globalized of states, with business-friendly corporate law that attracts both domestic and foreign companies and supports a high-wage traded service sector…Sixth-ranked Maryland holds its place among the leaders primarily because it has a high concentration of knowledge workers, many employed with the federal government or with federal contractors in the suburbs of Washington, D.C.

In theory, then, a downturn in federal government employment would hit both Maryland and Virginia hard, displacing them from the top tier of the rankings. But the bulk of his “Make It In Maryland” outline speaks to something federal workers seldom have to endure: working for minimum wage. Over the next five years, Jealous would increase the minimum wage in Maryland to $15 an hour for regular workers, with tipped employees reaching the plateau three years afterward.

While Jealous claims that a $15 per hour minimum wage would increase the pay for 573,000 Maryland workers, such a raise would place those just over that threshold at risk for a significant decrease in their standard of living. After all, the extra expense businesses would have to shoulder would have to come from someplace, and that someplace generally lies in two regions: increasing prices or decreasing labor costs by lopping off the least productive or lowest-skilled employees. As I often say, the true minimum wage is zero, from being jobless.

In a properly functioning marketplace, the wage one makes is just a shade less than the amount of value that employee creates – the small difference keeps the business profitable and viable. Obviously this is a relatively subjective category, best expressed by those who work on a straight commission and/or own their own business. And it doesn’t always take a lot of skill: for example, not to pick on landscapers but doing yard work isn’t the most highly skilled job – however, it is time-consuming so there’s a market of people who don’t want to take the time and effort to maintain their lawns that’s being met by entrepreneurs of all sizes who make it their job to take care of yards.

In fact, my first job was helping my brother take care of an older lady’s lawn – for 2 to 3 hours of work after school once a week I was paid the princely sum of $5. Luckily we could ride our bikes there – about 2 miles – and we used her lawnmowers and gas can filled with $1 a gallon gas. So it was not a high-skill job but it was one she was too old and frail to do, so she found two teenage boys willing to do it. That was the value to her, since she wasn’t able to perform it herself. And as it turned out, if we were efficient I would come close to making the minimum wage, which at the time hovered around $3 an hour. (Since my brother got $10 for riding the tractor to do a maybe 3/4 acre yard while I did the trimming with the push mower, he was already making minimum and then some.)

My second job was somewhat similar, but there was a catch. For most of three academic years I made minimum wage working in the dining halls at college. If we were busy, I was creating value by ensuring the cafeteria maintained a stock of clean dishes. On the other hand, if it was early in the shift all of us standing around were a money pit. The same was true at my first job out of college, working in a department store – again, for minimum wage. If there was a customer I could assist in some way and that customer made a purchase, well, I was creating value for Hudson’s. If not, I was a money pit. Luckily, I had acquired a good education so my time there was short – just weeks later I had my first architectural job, one that I spent four years at college learning the ropes to secure. In turn, I got quite the education learning in the workplace. In the next half-decade through on-the-job training I went from being a ink-on-mylar draftsman to a CAD operator (way back with AutoCAD version 11) which made me more valuable to them. Increasing skills and knowledge to maximize production: that’s the way it’s supposed to work.

Conversely, if you artificially raise the wage without getting a corresponding increase in value, do you know what you get? Kiosks at McDonalds or self-service checkouts at Walmart. Unfortunately, those were among the jobs that people in my generation got to grasp as the first rung on the ladder, but increasing the minimum wage is going to leave those people behind – particularly in areas where the wage support isn’t already present. (There are places in the state where $15 an hour is pretty much a de facto minimum, particularly in the DC area.) In any case, increasing the minimum wage isn’t going to help very much in areas with persistent unemployment because there’s little there with which to create value.

But one place increasing the minimum wage will help? State coffers. While some will lose their jobs, I’m sure the Jealous campaign is banking on enough income being created out of whole cloth to help grease the wheels on some of their other pipe dreams. So I honestly don’t know what it will cost, but I’m sure we will all pay the price nonetheless.

Now, there’s actually more to this section than just the minimum wage. But I liked this here piece so much that I decided to split “Make It In Maryland” in two and cover the rest next time.

What a party should be looking for

The other day I ran across a social media post from a friend of mine remarking how it was strange to see her name on the election ballot. Conversely. for the first time in 12 years, my name isn’t on a gubernatorial primary ballot in Wicomico County – so I retire with a record of 4-2. Granted, three of the four wins were situations where I could not lose, but a W is a W. (I won twice in three tries in Ohio, too.)

Anyway, since there are several former colleagues of mine who are running this time around, I didn’t want to make endorsements so much as give you an idea of what I think a good Central Committee member would be like.

In Maryland, Central Committee members for the GOP run on either a county level at-large or as part of a district within a county. In those instances where aspirants run for an entire county, there are normally seven to nine seats available and the race basically comes down to having enough name recognition to place in the top portion. For a district, it’s harder because there is generally just one seat to be had – so those seeking the seats often need to spend money or go knock on doors, or both.

One drawback in either case is being forced to compete with someone who’s already in elected office. For example, here in Wicomico County we have County Councilman Larry Dodd running both for County Council and the Central Committee. Obviously there’s no regulation against it (several elected officials around the state also sit on their county’s Central Committee) but one has to wonder whether they are doing it to boost their party or simply enhance their chances at re-election.

So we eliminate the self-servers. What that leaves is a collection of some people who know the ropes and a number of prospective newcomers. Using the slate I face as an example, 5 of the 13 on the ballot are already on the Central Committee, with four elected in 2014 and one appointee who happened to be my replacement when I left. One of the four remaining is running for a fourth term (coming in the same time I did), two are running for a third, and one is seeking re-election for the first time.

Obviously I know these people well because I worked with most of them, so that clouds my judgement a little bit. But if you’re on the outside, the operative question to ask is whether the party you’re a member of is better off than when they started. For instance, one longtime goal of our Central Committee was to get an elected school board – it took 12 years and removing a number of elected officials who were standing in the way, but this year we finally get a choice. (Well, some of us do: my district happens to have just one person running. But there are options for the at-large seats.)

As far as elected officials go, over the last twelve years my county has gone from having a 4-3 Democrat majority on a County Council that handled both legislative and executive duties to a 6-1 GOP majority with a Democrat county executive that became a Republican in 2014. Republicans gained the Sheriff and State’s Attorney positions but lost a spot on the Orphan’s Court. The local GOP also lost one State Senate seat but picked up one Delegate seat at the same time. (In theory, the GOP lost a seat but that was because one Delegate was redistricted out of the county.) In 12 years, though, the Republicans have gone from trailing Democrats in registration by 4,145 at the end of 2006 (a D+8 county) to trailing by 3,703 as of April (a D+6 county.)

The gains have been incremental: the Sheriff came in with the 2006 election (along with one County Council seat), the State’s Attorney in 2010 (with 2 more Council seats), and County Executive in 2014. In 2010 we gained one GOP Delegate but that was because the Democrat moved up to Senator, replacing a Republican stalwart. So there’s been a pretty good record of success for the Central Committee incumbents in my county, but your mileage may vary. (It was also a very stable group: for one term – 2010 to 2014 – we had no turnover at all. The nine elected in 2010 all served their full term, although some did not wish to return.)

The final qualification, though, is pretty subjective and requires some thought on your part.

There are some people out there who believe in their party, wrong or right. They’re the ones who complained about everything Barack Obama and Bill Clinton did but defend Donald Trump and the legacy of George W. Bush simply based on the letter behind their name. In honor of onetime Maryland GOP Chair Audrey Scott, I call them the “party over everything” group.

Eight years ago when I was first standing for re-election down here I wrote a post called “Party uber alles?” In it, I said this:

Yes, I’m proud to be a Republican but the “R” next to the name doesn’t guarantee a vote when I think they fall short on principles. That’s why I am unabashedly a (2010 GOP gubernatorial challenger Brian) Murphy supporter – on the other hand, Wayne Gilchrest was one of those types who wasn’t what I considered a good Republican to be.

(…)

It’s what makes your local Central Committee elections almost as important as choosing the best Republican candidates to follow the party’s conservative, limited-government philosophy through to a seat in the General Assembly.

It’s no secret I am to the right of the GOP’s center – I’m only half-joking when I say I’m “barely left of militia.” I left my Central Committee when my party left me and supported Donald Trump, who I considered to be too far left. (As a President, he’s often been a pleasant surprise in his manner of governing but isn’t the Reaganesque leader I was seeking.)

On most local Republican Party websites they will have a list of principles, often called “Why I Am A Republican.” The problem is that party leaders and elected officials too often talk a good game, but fail when it comes to principle. Above all, a good Central Committee member has to have principles more or less in line with their party’s – but a great Central Committee member has principles in line with the Constitution and its original intent.

So next Tuesday I’m going to fill out my ballot with some of those running, although I’m not going to vote for the full nine. (Not that I ever have: no disrespect to my erstwhile colleagues, but I always bullet voted just for myself. I didn’t care so much about who I served with so long as I served.) But as long as you’re not on the ballot, feel free to vote for the candidates you believe will fulfill the Constitutional principles that made our nation great. That’s how I’m going to do it.

A weekend to remember, 2018 edition

After a one-year hiatus and a whole host of changes, I’m bringing back my coverage of the Memorial Day weekend occurrences.

Last year’s Memorial Day celebration, to me, wasn’t much to write about. It’s not that the ceremony was any different, but to be honest I wasn’t in the mood for taking photos or recording the events. Couple that with the demise of another Memorial Day weekend staple event I enjoyed, the Concert for a Random Soldier, and I suppose I saw no point.

While the CRS is still lamented and missed, this Memorial Day weekend was special nonetheless because Kim’s daughter graduated from high school on Saturday, so we celebrated that fact with friends and family. Yet I didn’t forget to recall those who made the ultimate sacrifice at the Civic Center this morning.

The usual crowd of those who remembered made it a point this morning to be at the Wicomico Youth and Civic Center.

More and more of those looking on needed a seat. With the exception of those in Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom, our veterans are from conflicts that occurred over a quarter-century ago.

I’ve seen the program several times before, so I pretty much have the order of ceremonies down. Longtime MC Tony Sarbanes is still at his task.

Former County Councilman Tony Sarbanes, an Army veteran, continues in his post as host.

We recognize the Gold Star mothers, the veterans who are attending, the committee that annually puts the event together, and elected officials. In recent years, however, the purpose of this table is explained as well.

This is known as America’s White Table. One deviation from the custom (likely because of the chair selected and the POW-MIA flag) is that the chair is supposed to be tilted inward.

After the reciting of branch prayers, and before reading the list of names for each war, which varies from the two local residents lost in Operation Enduring Freedom to the 109 who perished in World War II, this bell is tolled two times, in succession – four rings for each. Since the annual event began in 2002, there have been seven names added to the list, the most recent being SGM Wardell B. Turner three years ago.

SCPO Dave Suiter, USN-Ret. has been tolling this Red Knights Memorial Bell for a number of years now.

We conclude, as always, with the playing of Amazing Grace, laying of a ceremonial wreath, a volley of arms, and Taps. Just try not to get misty-eyed.

Hearing Amazing Grace performed by Matthew Wallace is always a moving portion of the program.

A unit from the Wicomico County Sheriff’s Department gives a nine-gun salute – three rounds of three shots fired.

Tom Hehman emerged from his seat to the side to play Taps.

As an aside, we also had Taps played in our church service Sunday. John Jochum, who is the member of our church who played it for us, has also performed at this event in the past.

The wreath that is laid to remember our fallen. Doing the honor of placing it was Silver Star and Bronze Star recipient William James Byrd, Sr. SFC RET MPC U.S. Army.

The location for the ceremony is a permanently dedicated section in front of our Wicomico County Youth and Civic Center. While it is a fine location for our county, it is far from the most unique location for such a memorial.

Last weekend my wife and I took a mini-vacation to the Shenandoah Valley, with a stop at the Luray Caverns. Near the end of our tour, we were informed about a most unusual feature – the Page County Veterans Memorial, which, like Wicomico County’s, honors their fallen from World War I onward. Our guide explained that, in a county of 28,000 people, the local veterans’ organizations felt there was no better place for a memorial to be seen than at an attraction that draws over a half-million annually. So there it stands.

The Page County Veterans Memorial in Luray Caverns, Virginia.

Aside number two: while the Luray Caverns are nice, I highly recommend visiting the Luray Valley Museum across the road. I could have spent another hour there looking at the pioneer-era to Civil War displays inside the museum.

Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t remind my readers that today, Memorial Day, is a day set aside to honor those who perished in battle. Yes, we should express our thanks to veterans as we see them, but that particular ceremony is appropriate for Veteran’s Day in November.