Thoughts on 3rd Friday – April 2018 edition

The beauty of having a blog is that I don’t have to be in any hurry to post what, to others, may be old news by now.

Yes, this month’s Third Friday is a hazy weekend past and normally about this time I would be starting my wrapup of the monthly Republican Club meeting. But since I don’t play as much in the political game (and I had a previous commitment anyway) I was someplace else tonight. (Apparently I missed the annual legislative wrapup this evening, but it doesn’t matter because I’m working on the real legislative wrapup called the monoblogue Accountability Project. What do you think I spent a good part of my weekend doing?)

Digression aside, on Friday evening the family and I went downtown for a little while to see what we could see.

Looking west down Main Street as the sun starts to sink on downtown Salisbury.

The parking lots were about full, but it didn’t seem like that translated into a lot of people on Main Street. It was a nice gathering, but I’ve seen wall-to-wall people down there, too.

The wares of Zockoll Pottery.

One business that has seemed to be down there month after month is Zockoll Pottery. Now I’m a little biased because I know Brent through church, but he’s quite the artisan and even tossed a little bit of clay while he was down there. His business is slowly recovering from a fire that damaged his studio around the holidays.

At the top of the Plaza hill looking east down Main Street.

As I strolled up Main Street to the top of the hill, it seemed to me the crowd was a little thinner. Granted, we arrived about 6:30 or so, thus the sun was going down and it was cooling off rapidly. Also, there’s been a bit of a change in the setup where the area that’s being closed off has increased to the first block of Market Street so the focus of Third Friday is geographically shifting a bit to the west.

This is the forgotten corner of Third Friday, down St. Peter Street.

The photo probably doesn’t do this justice, but this is where the bubbles were coming from. Sometimes there’s been a food truck down there but this is also where the Jaycees sell the beer. It’s an unusual setup to have such a large open container section since there are two blocks of space where people may imbibe.

The band of the month was a staple local cover band called Tranzfusion.

The musical choice was one of the more unusual ones – normally they don’t do a straight-ahead classic pop cover band. Normally they choose something in a more alternative or acoustic vein, but these guys kept a decent crowd nearby. Wasn’t completely my thing but that’s quite all right.

Back in the day Third Friday used to be more ambitious with multiple music groups on two or three stages, but in recent years they’ve settled on the single stage of the Plaza for music and maybe some other act (like a youth dance group) on the courthouse steps. One thing that I’m going to be curious about regarding downtown development is whether Third Friday will eventually be relocated to focus the music on the amphitheater that’s under construction – alas, that location doesn’t leave a lot of space for artisans unless they are placed across the river.

Not much was up on North Division Street this particular Third Friday.

The event that would make good sense based around the amphitheater is the “Fridays at Five” event (like the last one from 2017 that I attended in this North Division Street location.) That is a gathering where such a focal point would enhance the event. (The same goes for First Saturday, which I’ve always managed to miss. Half the time it’s held inside anyway.) I think there will be some events held in and around the amphitheater this summer as a dry run for the National Folk Festival.

Suzanah Cain, running for District 4 County Council, was one of several candidates at Third Friday. By the way, she’s not in the photo because she was circulating as a good politician would.

While Third Friday’s physical location lies just outside the district, both County Council District 4 hopefuls were pressing the flesh. I saw Josh Hastings out walking around, while I got to at least introduce myself to Suzanah Cain before I left. At the time she was standing with the guy in the ultimate catbird seat, Delegate Carl Anderton. (The third in the confab was one of my favorite Democrats, Sarah Meyers – so it was a reach across the aisle.) Also making his rounds was Clerk of Courts candidate Bo McAllster, who I saw for the second time in less than a week. He had his wife and two kids in tow.

One place I didn’t stop by and say hello was the Republican Women’s booth. (Honestly, I’m not sure which of the two local groups was there. I’m sure someone reading this would tell me and break my you-know-whats for not dropping in.) But this was while I was still walking with Kim – shortly after she stopped and I kept going until I got to the band – only to turn around and see she was talking to Carl Anderton, who I had seen a couple minutes earlier and said hello to walking by. (Turnabout is fair play, I suppose.)

Anyway, we checked out the scene and departed as things were already breaking down about a half-hour before the scheduled (but informal) 8:00 close of festivities. Seeing them bail early was the second part of the foundation of my theory that the crowd was less.

A final thought: in years past this particular Third Friday date would have been a lead in for Pork in the Park. But for just the second time in over a dozen years, there was no Pork in the Park in April. (In 2014 it was held in May because it would have fallen on Easter weekend.) A few months back Wicomico County finally decided to pull the plug on that event to concentrate on the WIcomico County Fair, which is held in the same location.

You could couple that somewhat official excuse with the cyclical nature of food-related events. Even the venerable old Delmarva Chicken Festival that had dated from the 1940s ran out of time a few years ago and was – ironically – folded into the former Wicomico Farm and Home Show and rebranded as our county fair in 2015. It’s sad because Pork in the Park was one of my favorite weekends of the year until they ruined it by being greedy. That began in 2012, which was the year they alienated half their food vendors, and then a couple years later Pork in the Park doubled down by charging a hefty admission fee. Anyway, to get a “do you remember when” back when Pork in the Park was a premier event, here is a nice walk around video from 2012 (with a cameo from Jonathan Taylor of Lower Eastern Shore News – watch from the beginning and you’ll see him.) After those spectacular failures and the loss of the KCBS competition, it was never the same. Even worse, the event that succeeded it with KCBS (Pig and a Jig, down in Snow Hill) also seems to be no more.

But the demise of Pork in the Park and the former Salisbury Festival a few years apart means that two staple events of the so-called spring shoulder season are no more. The Wicomico County Fair is held in the traditional late-summer slot one would associate with a county fair, while the Salisbury Festival is being rebranded as the Downtown Salisbury Festival and they will try it in early June, when the june bugs are in OC.

With those cautionary tales in mind, we will see how Third Friday fares as the years go on. Has it reached its peak like all these other events did?

Pork in the Park 2015 in pictures and text

April 25, 2015 · Posted in Business and industry, Delmarva items, Personal stuff · Comments Off on Pork in the Park 2015 in pictures and text 

Cool weather, clouds, and a threat of rain didn’t help make this year’s Pork in the Park a success. (In fact, the rain this evening forced its closure at 8 p.m. rather than the planned 10 p.m.)

But I think the die was cast months before when the decision was made to scale back the event dramatically. First of all, you may notice that among my photos you won’t find any detailing the competition aspect of the event because there was none. Yes, you read this right. So I took far fewer photos.

Freed of the need to wonder if enough teams would enter to make up the prize pool, they reduced the admission charge down to $3. But they made other changes as well. I read on Facebook beforehand that there were no rides there this year; indeed, that was the case as they were replaced by a row of bounce houses and an entertainment stage for kids in their own section.

If that wasn’t enough for the kids, there was the opportunity to watch pig races. No wagering, please.

They also had dachshunds with bun costumes racing, from what I understand. PETA hasn’t shut down this New Jersey-based company yet, but I’m waiting.

The pig and “hot dog” races were intended to fill the half-hour changeover between bands. And you can tell crowds were down when this was the attendance for a well-known local singer like Randy Lee Ashcraft.

It’s not like there wasn’t a talented band on stage – there just weren’t a whole lot of people there on this Saturday afternoon.

Of course, there were a few holdover events the organizers opted to keep, such as the beer beach.

It didn’t seem very full when we were there, but then it was early afternoon on a chilly day. To me, beer is more of a warm day and late afternoon/evening beverage.

They also brought back the Eastern Shore Wing War.

In a three-hour event, participants bought admission for $10 and received 20 tasting tickets for the various vendors vying for wing supremacy. I’m not a big chicken wing fan, but this was one of the two relatively popular attractions (the other being the pig races, for which I witnessed a few hundred people looking on.) According to Pork in the Park’s social media sites, The Deli was judged the overall winner, with Sub Runners and The Corner Grill garnering second and third, respectively.

All this food and beer could be worked off in their cornhole tournament.

As a whole, though, the event was fairly disappointing when compared to previous renditions. The park just seemed so empty.

2015 was the twelfth annual event, which means Pork in the Park began about the same time I arrived in the area. As I recall – and a little (very little) research bore out – the weather was less than cooperative for most of the early versions of the event as well. The first year it really took off was 2007, the fourth edition of the event. Granted, at the time the economy was much better as well, but if you look at that post you’ll notice the day was nice and sunny. Ironically, had Pork in the Park held their traditional third weekend in April date in 2015 the weather would have been fantastic. (Go back and look at my Third Friday photos from last week.) Instead, they opted for the dates vacated when the Salisbury Festival pulled the plug after thirty-plus years.

Even with as much promotion as I heard for it locally, the event stands at a crossroads. If it’s considered a failure this year due to low attendance, the problem can’t be determined very easily – is the poor weather to blame or a lack of entertainment options? The festival went for broke last year with its entertainment selections, bringing in two national acts plus the eating contest, but it also departed from its traditional date and shifted to Mother’s Day weekend because Easter fell on its normal third weekend in April – so the number of KCBS competition teams was way down from previous years, when well over 100 teams would bid for the various prizes.

Meanwhile, there is now competition from a similar event in Snow Hill called the Pig and a Jig BBQ Festival, which will be held in late May. As of this year it became a KCBS-sanctioned event so Pork in the Park wouldn’t be locally exclusive for that distinction anymore.

If you ask me, the problems with Pork in the Park began the year they decided to revamp the arrangement of the food court. But I was reading that post and it reminded me just how large the event became, even in a bad economy. There was plenty of interest because the admission price was still pretty low – I don’t remember if it was still $2 or had jumped to $3, but it was a far cry from the $7 they charged last year.

This year’s event just seemed dull and lifeless. Perhaps the crummy weather played a part, but I thought the competition aspect gave it character as well as provided a little boost to the local economy. I doubt there are nearly as many competition teams these days as the BBQ craze is somewhat played out, but we once had the second-largest competition in the country and it’s a shame all that went away. The first step in bringing it back, though, is to make clear that 2015 wasn’t the final Pork in the Park.

What we had this year was not the ending the event would deserve after a great run.

Pig and a Jig 2014 in pictures and text

June 2, 2014 · Posted in Business and industry, Delmarva items, Local Music · Comments Off on Pig and a Jig 2014 in pictures and text 

Okay, let’s face it. I like ribs, and when they come with live music so much the better. So just a few weeks after Pork in the Park blew out of town we went on Saturday to its Snow Hill-based little sibling called Pig and a Jig, This year’s event was the second annual, and a change in the calendar date from one end of May to the other provided for simply awesome weather.

One of the big differences between the inaugural event last year and this year’s rendition was KCBS certification, so there were over 30 teams vying for the prize money and hardware.

They were set up where we parked last year, with parking now across the road and a shuttle service provided. Unfortunately, the access over there wasn’t as easy and the competition was just wrapping up anyway so I didn’t wander over there to scope things out. While it was nice to have a shuttle bus, I would suggest securing the same trailers they use for the county fair and several tractors – it would make for less waiting.

The other addition was rides for the kids.

Between that and the space for cornhole, it left a modest midway section.

There were still a small number of food vendors, with a couple traveling some distance to be here.

This was at one stand called Kloby’s. Not sure what it would taste like, but it looked interesting.

I suppose, though, it had most of what I ended up having within the Mason jar.

Aside from the beans, which I found a touch too spicy – Kim liked them, though – the meal was pretty good, although I think I would have liked the other half of the rack better. The North Carolina-style sauce was tasty, though.

Meanwhile, we were listening to our friends from Something Grey.

Since I only saw the one band, I won’t do a Weekend of Local Rock feature. But they had a number of bands come back from last year, so they must be treating them right.

I’m not sure just how much property Preston owns, but they probably need more space to make this event bigger and better in 2015. Certainly the local Snow Hill schools would like it to be an ongoing success, and if they can keep KCBS certification they may end up with a big hit on their hands.

And by the way, the reason the photos turned out the way they did was that there was something on my lens. I have no idea how it happened, but it messed up several of these photos and may have scratched the camera lens. For that I’m an unhappy camper, although the camera is an old model which has basically been supplanted by my cell phone. I just like it because it fits easily in my pocket.

2013 Pig and a Jig BBQ Festival in pictures and text

May 5, 2013 · Posted in Business and industry, Delmarva items, Personal stuff · Comments Off on 2013 Pig and a Jig BBQ Festival in pictures and text 

Once upon a time, the massive, weekend-long food orgy we locally call Pork in the Park got its start, and I imagine it went something along the lines of what was held yesterday down in Snow Hill, Maryland. Then again, our county doesn’t have a large defunct auto dealership turned into a body shop to hold an event at. This used to be Sho-Wil Chevy-Oldsmobile, or so the large tent said.

At least these guys went out and hired an expert, as Sandy Fulton (right) has been involved with Pork in the Park since the beginning.

Certainly the Snow Hill Middle School PTA may have hit upon a winner of an event. For those of you expecting thousands of people, a throng of vendors, and dozens of competitors, though, you would be a little disappointed with this modest beginning.

A total of eight amateur teams vied for the $100 top prize in chicken and pork, along with $200 for the overall winner. I’m not sure how the vendors did, but there were a few there.

There was also a somewhat limited selection of food at this gathering, including ribs for sale from Famous Dave’s and Phat Boyz BBQ. Hey, it’s a start.

By the way, the best chicken prize was won by Broke Bob’s BBQ (obviously Bob is a little less broke) while Spicy Guys BBQ (who sent their lone girl up to claim the prize) won the best pork. But the overall champion was Tribal Smokers, which finished second in both categories.

Lest you think there wasn’t much going on there, well, there was a variety of activities. We missed the cornhole tournament, but could have sharpened our horseshoe skills.

Now a number of people left after the awards, since they had likely arrived very early to the site for their chance at the cash. But quite a few hung around in the chill to listen to one of the five bands featured. (Spoiler alert: there is also the return of Weekend of Local Rock for a post next weekend.)

This couple made themselves at home in the hay, much to the delight of onlookers.

Others in the even younger set found the bales fun to horse around in.

I imagine the young teenage boy, unseen under the lump of straw on the right side of the photo, is still scrubbing it out of his clothes, hair, etc. He had a lot of fun with it.

Another entertainer not on the bill was this talented young man.

I suggested he should try his luck on the Boardwalk because he could probably pay for a semester or two every summer, with a little more practice.

But as the sun set over the horizon, the vendors had packed up and the food court was doing the same. I think Phat Boyz was the only one left selling as we left. Well, that and the beer tent.

Yet aside from the food, which was a little on the pricey side – not that it’s an uncommon thing at these types of events – this was a relatively cheap way to spend the afternoon. With a little better weather and a year’s experience under their belt, I see no reason why they can’t draw a couple thousand next year.

Their main goal is to become a KCBS-sanctioned event next year, which will certainly make the stakes a lot higher for the teams. If they can get to a point where they’re drawing 30 or 40 teams, perhaps 20 to 30 vendors, and maybe a dozen different restaurants (not all of them sell ribs) that would be a superb one-day event for the Snow Hill area to bookend their season (Blessing of the Combines is their prime tourism draw, and they also have the annual Worcester County Fair, both in August.)

So congratulations on a job well done to Pig and a Jig. I look forward to bigger and better things next year. And also, as I said above, look for the Weekend of Local Rock post on the event this coming weekend.

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