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 2016 in pictures and text

April 24, 2016 · Posted in Business and industry, Delmarva items, Personal stuff · Comments Off on Pork in the Park 2016 in pictures and text 

It was back to the basics once again for this once-premier regional event, which is still chugging along in its thirteenth year. What better way to celebrate the weekend of Earth Day than eating some of its tastier creatures cooked over a charcoal fire?

For the second time, though, there was no KCBS competition element. However, there was a competition wrapping up just as we arrived regarding which of the four competitors selling pulled pork had the best, along with a local craft beer pairing. Actually it sounded like a pretty good deal for $10 and it’s a pity I missed it.

There was still a pretty good food court, though, dubbed “Pig Out Alley” with some out-of-towners hawking their barbecued wares.

The guys from Smoke Shack BBQ were hard at work keeping up with demand.

There seems to be a psychological effect where the place with the longest line is thought to have the best ribs. As it turned out, Kim stayed in the Smoke Shack line for about a half-hour while I walked across the way to get mine from the former Salisbury denizen Famous Dave’s, strolling right up to the counter and ordering. Maybe that’s why their location here only lasted a couple years.

So this is what I got.

Funny thing: both Kim and I agreed that the Famous Dave’s ribs were better. Smoke Shack was somewhat pricier as well, but that comes with the territory I suppose. We could have gotten Hess’s ribs as well, for they didn’t have a long line either. But as I recall we had theirs last year, when Pork in the Park nearly failed.

Nicer weather helped with the attendance, which seemed to be improved from 2015. It wasn’t to the level of past years but perhaps they can rebuild the festival.

One holdover from 2015 was the kids court, with the row of bouncy houses.

It was actually a pretty good arrangement, as they separated the kids zone from the beer tent and other adult areas. It wasn’t like you couldn’t hear the band, which was wrapping up as we got there.

According to the entertainment page of the PitP website the band was Delta Spur, a country cover band. Since I’m not into country, they didn’t do a lot for me until they ended the show with some Lynard Skynard (that one I recognized.) But it looks like quite a few were into them.

One thing new they were trying was Balloonville, where you could check out these balloons and perhaps take a (tethered) ride in one, for a price.

I would have to say that this year’s rendition is improved over last year’s, but whether it can turn the corner without the competition element remains to be seen. It’s worth noting that most of the banners various rib vendors use to commemorate their victories are several years old – seems that the number of these competitions have waned as tastes move away from everything barbecued and onto other culinary options. Perhaps someone somewhere has a banner that brags about winning Pork in the Park, but that’s not happening this year.

But if you don’t mind paying a little extra for some good ribs, this isn’t a bad place to bring the family if you’re around Salisbury. They have the kids’ area so the little ones can blow off steam and it’s only $3 to get in for the adults. It’s a beautiful day on Delmarva as well – aside from some rain yesterday afternoon, they lucked out with the weather. You have until 5:00 today.

So come on out and see if we can make it bigger and better for 2017.

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.

A resurrection

March 5, 2015 · Posted in Business and industry, Delmarva items, Personal stuff · Comments Off on A resurrection 

Once in awhile I’m wrong. Maybe it was bad information, and maybe I just misinterpreted what I heard. But I was glad to be incorrect in this case.

A few weeks ago I posted on what I thought was the demise of Pork in the Park. But since we celebrated National Pig Day this week, I’m very, very happy the report of its demise was premature!

Instead, the annual festival was retooled and scaled back to a two-day event to be held on Friday, April 24 and Saturday, April 25 – the dates the now-shuttered Salisbury Festival would have fallen on. After the ill-fated move by Pork in the Park to Mother’s Day weekend last year (thanks to Easter occurring on its usual April weekend) the closure of the Salisbury Festival in favor of a fall event gives Pork in the Park a little better weather potential.

Other big changes immediately apparent are the serious reduction in admission prices from last year’s $7 to a much more affordable $3. When you factor in the food costs, families didn’t seem as willing to shell out the money to get in. You may not have the ambitious entertainment schedule of recent years, but as long as there are ribs to eat most will be happy to have the same sort of bands we usually hear for most of the fall festivals. (You can bring back Smokin’ Gunnz for me.)

It’s most likely the cost came down once the decision was made to broom the wing eating contest that comprised most of the Sunday entertainment and the national recording acts on Friday and Saturday nights – although I haven’t seen an updated entertainment scale yet the promotions are for the Eastern Shore Wing War (a people’s choice contest), the cornhole tournament, and pig races. (No wagering, please.)

Last year had to be a disappointment for the county’s tourism board, with the number of competitors way down from previous years. The trick will be getting those who passed on the event last year to place it back on their contest calendars. I think if they can get back to around 80 to 100 competitors that will be a success. It’s likely the cyclical nature of the food business has weeded out some of the weaker, less serious competition teams as barbeque is not necessarily the “in” thing right now so doubling the number who participated last year would be a good goal.

As for us, I am pleased to see the event come back. It may not be as ambitious as it was before, but at least the organizers conceded they reached a dead end and decided to give it another shot on the scale we were accustomed to. I’m sure I’ll be there, so hopefully I’ll have a goodly amount of company.

Losing momentum?

The big news around these parts today was the announcement that Labinal Power Systems would be closing its Salisbury plant and consolidating operations in Texas. Gone will be an estimated 600 jobs as the plant phases out operations over the next two years.

On top of that, there are rumors that both of the April tourist draws to Salisbury – the annual Salisbury Festival and Pork in the Park – have been scrubbed for 2015. While another local blogger swears this is not true and the Salisbury Festival is simply being repositioned to the fall, one has to ask how that would fit into an October already crowded with other local events. (As for Pork in the Park, my understanding is that it was a money loser as the county had to plow too much into it up front for its continued survival.)

Salisbury’s downtown has been doing well with the increased popularity of 3rd Friday, a successful New Year’s Eve event, the upcoming opening of Headquarters Live – an entertainment venue which is the remodeled former Fire Station 16 – and a popular Thursday – Saturday night trolley service connecting these venues with nearby Salisbury University, but other parts of town haven’t done as well over the last year. The closing of Labinal decreases further the traffic to a once-booming part of the outskirts of Salisbury that formerly boasted the old Salisbury Mall, torn down several years ago for a development that never got off the ground.

Everything is cyclical, of course, and one example is the development around the SU campus. But losing these Labinal jobs would be a major blow to a county already on a long losing streak when it comes to year-over-year jobs. And the problem with such a long transition to a shutdown (almost two full years) is that lag time is going to be longer than some potential employers want to wait for the facility.

We all better hope that Maryland becomes a lot more business-friendly over the next two years. It’s ironic that Senator Mikulski made a big deal out of a large federal contract secured for the facility just weeks before the announced move to Texas. Call it Rick Perry’s revenge.

Pork in the Park 2014 in pictures and text

May 12, 2014 · Posted in Business and industry, Delmarva items · Comments Off on Pork in the Park 2014 in pictures and text 

As I pointed out on Saturday, I talked about the music before the event, which was unusual for me. It was also unusual for us to go to Pork in the Park on Friday night, as I think I only have maybe one time before. But we had our reasons, and it turned out to be a good experience.

It didn’t turn out to be the rainy Saturday we all feared, but I found the crowds were much more manageable on Friday. For example, here was a shot of the food court as we arrived about 7:00.

One thing I found was that the change in date from its usual late April timeslot to Mother’s Day weekend probably affected competitor and vendor turnout. In 2013 there were over 100 competitors, but just 40 or so this year. So there were only a couple of non-local places actually selling ribs in the food court. Nothing against the locals, but I can have theirs any time.

I tried the Texas Rib Rangers on the right, which really didn’t have a line by the time we ate. Kim went with this outlet – maybe it was because Hess BBQ had all these trophies. (This photo shows about half, actually.)

I’m actually getting ahead of myself, though, because we didn’t eat until probably 8:30 or so. Initially we wandered around the grounds, getting a few photos of things we thought interesting like the rides.

They were tucked in alongside the judges’ tent, which invited business for next year.

I decided not to be too nosy and snap photos of the inside. To me it’s more appealing to wander around the competitors area with open eyes – and nostrils.

I don’t think I smelled THAT smell, though.

Some people believed they had a serious problem.

This group was an instant favorite with me, rocking the Gadsden flag.

And what barbecue festival is complete without beer?

This was in a good spot, in between the food court and the stage and not far from the porta-potties.

We walked back to get our food just in time for this spectacle.

I realize this is a shallow pond but where are their lifejackets? These guys almost capsized a couple times, but they lit the center bonfire and several other smaller ones.

So we went back and finally got our food. Here’s what I had.

Aside from the last couple, I thought the ribs were just okay and not great. The last two were done just right and I liked their sauce, but overall I have had better there – one batch from a Florida-based vendor who didn’t show and another victimized by the food court fiasco a couple years back. Now those were good North Carolina-style ribs.

By the time we finished eating, the food court was mainly deserted.

But the pond reflecting the lights was pretty. We were actually walking back to the stage to get my shots for the Weekend of Local Rock post when I took this.

My last shot hearkens back to the early days of Pork in the Park when they featured a Sunday car show. I just liked the Stingray and we were parked a few spots away. It was a good test shot for the camera.

Honestly, I’m hoping the change to May is not a permanent one because Easter will be back to its “normal” time slot for the next few years. The drastic decline in competitors has to be traceable to the later date, although the complaints about the new $7 entry fee were loud as well. There was also a VIP tent added to the mix, but I thought that was too far away from the action to be viable.

As of this writing I don’t know if the plan will be to hold it in May again next year or go back to the likelier date of April 17-19, 2015. As long as it doesn’t snow we’ll be okay.

Weekend of local rock volume 59

May 10, 2014 · Posted in Local Music · 1 Comment 

Normally I do things in a different order when I cover multifaceted events, but this week I found myself in a little bit of a quandry with no new release to review from my musical patron and some thoughts on what I heard last night. So instead of saving the “weekend of local rock” feature to fall a few days after the main coverage of Pork in the Park, this time I will lead with it.

Last night I heard two of the many bands slated for this weekend at Winterplace Park – since the forecast for today was iffy, my list of things to do this weekend was rather long, and we had a somewhat rare evening sans a 14-year-old, we decided to instead make a Friday night of it. Ironically, our teenager’s musical tastes would have made the night’s headliner very palatable to her, but let’s talk about the Bonedaddies first.

The Bonedaddies play at Pork in the Park, May 9, 2014.

These guys are like a comfortable pair of old shoes – you know what to expect when you put them on. In the case of the Bonedaddies, it’s a steady diet of classic rock stretching from ZZ Top (they were playing “I Thank You” as we walked in) to their closing number from Tom Petty, “Runnin’ Down A Dream.” And there must be a law which now states any cover band must play Wilson Pickett’s “Mustang Sally.”

So we caught perhaps the last 45 minutes of their show, which had some interest but a lot of empty space in front of the stage. One thing which is different about Pork in the Park this year is the lack of any seating close to the stage – in years prior the stage was set up perhaps 25 to 30 yards from a pavilion, but not this year. Most people who wanted to sit either had to bring their own chairs or sit about 50-60 yards away.

A good portion of the open space filled for the headliner, as you’ll see.

First of all, if you wonder why the photos are so dark, this is what happened when I set my night setting.

So deal with the dark. Anyway, Charlie Worsham is an up-and-coming country artist who is doing one last weekend of shows before a tour opening for Brad Paisley.

I will gladly admit country music is not my cup of tea, so suffice to say I didn’t really recognize Worsham’s originals – but they were well-received by the several hundred people around the stage.

Unfortunately, having just one album to his credit and about 90 minutes of stage time to fill meant that he had to play a few covers. So can I ask a question – why is it that country artists feel the need to cover rock songs?

I will grant that my friends from Semiblind, who have graced many a WLR volume, can take a country song they like and supercharge it to make it listenable and sometimes even really enjoyable for a metalhead like me. But it doesn’t work as well the other way – no country singer can be as urban as “Billie Jean” needs to sound nor can “Crazy Train” have justice done to it with a banjo. Cover Lynard Skynard or the Allman Brothers – no problem for a country band. Surely they can even pull off “Mustang Sally.” So while I hate to be so critical, I must say that version of “Crazy Train” was brutal.

On the other hand, working as an opening act will give them a chance to write and perform what they’re best at, leaving “Crazy Train” for someone else. Their mini-tour began in Houston yesterday in a performance for a local radio station before coming to Salisbury and moving on to Chesterfield, Virginia tomorrow before joining up with Paisley later next week. Those sorts of logistics are fascinating to me.

Assuming the weather doesn’t intervene, the lineup for today is rather promising. If you hurry, you can catch the Barren Creek Band at 10, with Picnic following at 12.

Veterans of Pork in the Park and a welcome Pennsylvania import follow at 2:30.

Smokin’ Gunnz is always a crowd favorite, as evidenced by the number of views this four-year-old video still gets on a monthly basis.

Another local favorite is bluesman Tom Larsen, who will serve as the opening act for Jimmie Van Zandt once the awards are over around 5:30 or so.

Front Page News is the final band to take the stage early Sunday afternoon, as that day is mainly given over to the wing-eating contest.

So music fans aren’t left wanting by the lineup – the question becomes whether Mother Nature will cooperate today.

WCRC meeting – February 2014

Tonight’s gathering wasn’t exactly the one we had planned, but it turned out all right. Considering our outgoing first vice-President Marc Kilmer was placed in charge by the late arrival of president Jackie Wellfonder and that our speaker, District 38B candidate Carl Anderton Jr., was late due to mayoral duties in Delmar, the agenda was reshuffled a few times but we got through in one of the speedier meetings we’ve had recently.

Yet we began the meeting in much the same way many previous meetings have commenced, with the recitation of the Lord’s Prayer and Pledge of Allegiance. And while I don’t read the minutes anymore (because they’re posted on the website), we still had the Treasurer’s Report to file.

But because of the absences, we actually led off with Dave Parker’s Central Committee report. He assessed the election as “shaping up rather nicely” as he reported on the candidates who had filed, with a couple last-minute updates from those in attendance. Parker also had some lighter fare as he recited a number of observations based on the thought that “you might be living in a country run by idiots.”

He invited all local Republican candidates to our next Central Committee meeting on March 3, and updated us on the Lincoln Day Dinner where we are still working with our desired speaker on a date – however, if only a midweek event is possible we may have to change the venue.

A number of candidates (or their surrogates) gave updates and reports.

John Hall, who is running for a full term in County Council District 4, noted that “next year will be a very difficult year” financially for the county, and that needed future school projects may have to wait. Hall was appointed to fill out the unexpired term of the late Bob Caldwell in 2011.

Mary Beth Carozza spoke about being an advocate for several causes in Annapolis, particularly against the “chicken tax.” And while she was still out knocking on a lot of doors, she was still finding she needed to educate voters about the new district setup and the June primary.

Larry Dodd, who’s in the ring for County Council District 3, gave a shortened stump speech highlighting his experience and time at the Board of Education. If elected he woould work to reduce crime and make sure farmer’s rights are protected, along with making sure government lives within its means.

This was important because the next to speak was Dodd’s recently-filed primary opponent, Tom Taylor. After reaching over and shaking Dodd’s hand, Taylor stated his case that the GOP should have a choice and that he was committed to fiscal conservatism and “better government through being smaller.”

County Executive hopeful Bob Culver told those gathered that “this was the best time we have to take Rick (Pollitt, current County Executive) out of office.,,it’s time for a change.” He called on us to give him a strong primary showing.

On behalf of District 37B candidate Christopher Adams, Marc Kilmer said Adams was busy meeting voters, but was also testifying in Annapolis on a number of business bills. Kilmer then went on to discuss his own camapign, with an April fundraiser in the works.

Fellow District 37B hopeful Johnny Mautz Jr. had a surrogate as well in Shawn Jester. Shawn passed along word that we were invited to a Mautz campaign event March 2 in Cambridge, from 4 to 6 p.m.

Dr. Rene Desmarais, who was a little late but is also a District 37B contender, assessed his campaign as “going great” and raising a lot of money. He invited us to an event March 12 in Fruitland. He actually spoke after our featured speaker, who came in about a half-hour late.

But Carl Anderton, Jr. had a good excuse as he was at a meeting involving the two commissions which run their respective sides of Delmar. (Part lies in Maryland and part in Delaware; however, they strive to coordinate efforts as one entity where possible.)

He led off with his meeting with the governor as head of the Maryland Municipal League. catching Martin O’Malley by surprise when he told him about the proposed “chicken tax” and its potentially devastating effect on the Eastern Shore. That led to the O’Malley “read my lips” veto threat a few days later. And when Carl confronted House sponsor Delegate Shane Robinson with the fact that 40% of Eastern Shore jobs have some reliance on the poultry industry, Delegate Robinson backed off, saying that he “just wanted to have a conversation” about the idea.

Yet this played into a significant part of Carl’s campaign: the premise that we have great educational institutions locally but no jobs to keep the graduates here. Even the potential explosive growth at the Wallops Island space complex just across the Virginia line may be squandered by Maryland’s poor business climate. Anderton’s was a “we need to get back to basics” approach, charging that part of the Eastern Shore delegation was working against us. Not only could we not attract business, continued Carl, but we can no longer attract retirees either because of our punitive income and estate taxes. “It’s time for a whole lifestyle change,” concluded Carl.

We finally got around to a little business once Carl finished, most importantly the election of officers. For 2014, they will be almost the same group as last year’s, with one exception.

  • President: Jackie Wellfonder
  • First Vice-President: Shawn Jester
  • Second Vice-President: Larry Dodd
  • Third Vice-President: Sean Fahey
  • Fourth Vice-President: Cathy Keim
  • Treasurer: Deb Okerblom
  • Secretary: Michael Swartz

Jester is the newcomer, replacing Marc Kilmer.

We also made and passed motions to secure a table at the Salisbury Festival and potentially one at Pork in the Park as well. There’s also the prospect of needing a headquarters for this fall’s election, and some members are already chomping at the bit to secure a location – unfortunately, we have several of our old ones to choose from because they are still vacant after all this time.

All told, we were through in less than an hour, but we accomplished quite a bit. It’s also worth noting that a man who’s perhaps one of Maryland’s longest-serving elected officials announced his retirement tonight. After close to a half-century on the Wicomico County Republican Central Committee, Blan Harcum will not seek another term. We applauded him for his efforts tonight.

A monoblogue year in review

Having a holiday schedule based on Wednesday holidays seems to play havoc with the news cycle, as there’s not much going on with Maryland politics right now. By the time the holiday hangover is done, it’s the weekend.

So over the next four days I’m going to provide for you a look back and look forward. As part of that, tonight’s post will be the look back, with some of the highlights of my political coverage – and a couple other items tossed in for fun as well. This is the first time I’ve tried this, so I’ll see how it goes.

**********

The year began, as it always does, in January. As will be the case even moreso this year, political fundraising was in the news as there was a surprise leader in the gubernatorial money race on the GOP side. Another highlight of the month was a spirited and enlightening discussion of state issues at the Wicomico Society of Patriots meeting – something all too infrequent this year, unfortunately.

But the highlight of the month was my two-part coverage of the Turning the Tides conference in Annapolis. which had a plethora of good speakers and discussion. It was so good I had to post separately on the morning and afternoon events.

In February my attention was turned to several topics, particularly providing coverage of the financing and the events surrounding the Salisbury municipal elections, for which the primary was February 26th. A key issue brought up was a state mandate for the city to help pay for cleanup of Chesapeake Bay, to the tune of $19 million a year.

Another state mandate took center stage in February, as the Wicomico County Council held a Tier Map forum to find out citizens weren’t exactly enamored with the idea. As part of that I read from my written testimony on a Tier Map repeal bill, which wasn’t the only testimony I wrote – I also put in my two cents on the gun grab bill.

We also found out that month that the Maryland GOP would get new leadership following the resignation of Chair Alex Mooney.

March found me continuing my coverage of the Salisbury city elections, but only backing one candidate. More important were local developments on the state level, where the Second Amendment was a hot topic for a local townhall meeting and our county’s Lincoln Day Dinner.

But the highlight for me, by far, was my day at CPAC. That turned out to be a two-part set of posts.

As the area began to wake up from a winter slumber in April, so did the political world as it turned from the General Assembly session to the 2014 campaign. The Salisbury city elections went as expected, so I turned my attention to the race for state party chair. Interim Chair Diana Waterman ran a campaign which was at times embroiled in some controversy, but prevailed on enough supporters to make it through the lengthy grind of campaign forums (including one in Cambridge on the eve of the state convention) and win the remainder of Alex Mooney’s unexpired term. But even the convention itself had its share of ups and downs, particularly a chaotic ending and a rebuff to new media.

While that was happening, the 2014 election was beginning to take shape, with familiar names both trying their luck again and trying for a promotion. Others had interesting endorsements as feathers in the cap.

But it wasn’t all political in April. The outdoor season began with two local mainstays: Pork in the Park and the Salisbury Festival. I also found out I was immortalized on video thanks to Peter Ingemi, better known as DaTechGuy.

Those things political slowed down in May, with just a little reactionary cleanup to the state convention to begin the month, along with other reaction to the recently-completed General Assembly session. In its wake we also had turnover in Maryland House of Delegates GOP leadership.

But one prospective candidate for governor announced other intentions, leaving another to confirm what we knew all along.

On the fun side, I enjoyed Salisbury’s Third Friday celebration with some friends and stopped by to see them at another barbecue festival, too.

June began with a visit from gubernatorial candidate David Craig, who stopped by Salisbury and in the process gave me an interview. And while he didn’t make a formal tour, fellow Republican Ron George made sure to fill me in on his announcement and establish tax cutting bonafides. We also picked up a Republican candidate for an important local seat and found out political correctness pays in the Maryland business world.

A local doctor gave us his perspective on Obamacare and our area celebrated the chicken in June, too. I also learned of a special honor only a handful of political websites received.

As is often the case, our wallets became a little lighter in July. In the aftermath, we found out who David Craig picked as a running mate and welcomed both of them to our Wicomico County Republican Club meeting. I also talked about another who was amassing a support base but hadn’t made definite 2014 plans at the time.

On the other side of the coin, we found the Democratic field was pressing farther away from the center, a place the GOP was trying to court with the carrot of primary voting. Meanwhile, the political event of the summer occurred in Crisfield, and I was there.

There were some interesting developments in the new media world as well – a plea for help, a shakeup in local internet radio, and my annual monoblogue Accountability Project all came down in July.

The big news in August was the resignation of State Senator E.J. Pipkin, and the battle to succeed him. And while one gubernatorial candidate dropped out, another made his intentions formal and stopped by our Wicomico County Republican Club meeting as well. Even Ron George stopped by our fair county, although I missed him.

It seemed like the gubernatorial campaign got into full swing in September – Charles Lollar announced in an unusual location, the Brown/Ulman Democratic team came here looking for money, Ron George tangled with Texas governor Rick Perry and showed up to make it three Wicomico County Republican Club meetings in a row with a gubernatorial candidate, and Doug Gansler decided to drop by, too. On the other side, Michael Steele took a pass. I also talked about what Larry Hogan might do to fill out the puzzle.

Those up the Shore made news, too. Steve Hershey was the survivor who was appointed State Senator, and I attended the First District Bull Roast for the first time. I’ve been to many Wicomico County Republican Club Crab Feasts, but this year’s was very successful indeed.

September also brought the close of our local baseball season. As is tradition I reviewed the season, both to select a Shorebird of the Year and hopefully improve the fan experience.

October was a month I began considering my choice in the gubernatorial race. That became more difficult as Larry Hogan took an unusual trip for a businessman and Charles Lollar’s campaign worked on self-immolation, while Doug Gansler needed his own damage control.

I also had the thought of going back to the future in Maryland, but a heavy dose of my political involvement came with the tradtional closing events to our tourist season, the Good Beer Festival and Autumn Wine Festival.

Most of November was spent anticipating the Maryland GOP Fall Convention; in fact, many were sure of an impending announcement. Honestly, both may have fallen into the category of “dud.” But all was not lost, as the month gave me the chance to expound on manufacturing and share some interesting polling data.

Finally we come to December. While the month is a long runup to the Christmas holiday, I got the chance to again expound on manufacturing and come up with another radical idea for change. We also got more proof that our state government is up for sale and those who are running for governor place too much stock in internet polling. My choice is still up in the air, even after compiling an 11-part dossier on the Republicans currently in the race.

Locally, we found a good candidate to unseat a long-time incumbent who has long ago outlived his political usefulness. And the incumbent will need to watch his back because Maryland Legislative Watch will be back again to keep an eye on him and his cohorts. I’ll be volunteering for a second year,

And while I weighed in on the latest national diversion from the dreary record of our President and his party, I maintained two December traditions, remarking on eight years of monoblogue and days later inducting two new players into the Shorebird of the Week Hall of Fame.

You know, it was fun going down memory lane for 2013. But tomorrow it will be time to look forward, beginning with the local level.

Pork in the Park 2013 in pictures and text

April 23, 2013 · Posted in Business and industry, Delmarva items, Personal stuff · 2 Comments 

Normally I have gone to Pork in the Park on a Saturday, but circumstances this year dictated I go on Sunday this year. It’s definitely a different vibe from going on a Saturday – the barbecue competitors are gone and the crowds are smaller.

But the ribs are still popular, and those who supply them seem to come back year after year.

This was the place I got them from this time; alas, the people I liked from last year opted not to return.

Instead of professional barbecue teams, the Sunday barbecue competition is strictly amateur. But I believe the overall winner here gets to compete against the big boys in 2014.

Some of these amateurs still have the great professional signage.

Because the professional pig roasters were gone, there were other competitions going on in their place. Anyone for cornhole?

The competition was a little more friendly on the drink end, and I’m glad many of our local establishments represented themselves. With pork, is it beer or wine?

The entertainment was more subdued as well, with just a couple bands there for Sunday. Pictured below the overall entertainment schedule were the Crawdaddies, who as you may expect from the name played with a zydeco flavor.

Crawdaddies (640x480)

Now Pork in the Park has held events like car shows and such to bring people out on Sunday, but this year they stumbled upon something which may be a winner. The real entertainment this day was provided by gluttony. First came a raft of amateurs who tried their luck at eating vast amounts of chicken wings – 12 pounds in six minutes.

But they paled in comparison to how the professionals took care of business. In 12 minutes their task was to eat 24 pounds of wings.

Now these were people on the Major League Eating circuit who had ingested large quantities of items like chili spaghetti, cranberry sauce, asparagus, and so forth. But the most famous competitor, Joey Chestnut, was the reigning Nathan’s hot dog eating champion, a fact gleefully played up by the Major League Eating announcer who breathlessly described the events in detail to a crowd of several hundred.

I found out later that Chestnut was the winner, having consumed over 200 chicken wings in the 12 minutes allowed.

The real winner, though, was event sponsor Wicomico County Recreation and Tourism. Yes, they lost a number of competitors and vendors from last year’s rain and the anger about the poor setup – this year the rides were shunted over to the stone parking lot last year’s food vendors hated and competitors placed where the rides were previously so there would be more room in front of the stage. It didn’t seem like the increased admission cost of $5 (when it was previously $2) did much to dampen turnout, since people probably perceived more value with the entertainment upgrade to a national act.

But it will be interesting to see whether they can top this year’s slate, particularly as a similar event (assisted in part by the former head of Wicomico Recreation and Tourism) makes its debut in a couple weeks down near Snow Hill. That one-day event, called Pig and a Jig, may seem like the “old” Pork in the Park before it became so popular.

Whether that event is rare or well-done remains to be seen.

 

Weekend of local rock volume 47

April 28, 2012 · Posted in Delmarva items, Local Music · Comments Off on Weekend of local rock volume 47 

It’s not meant to be exhaustive, but I decided the couple bands I shot at Pork in the Park were worth a post. Can’t do politics every day.

First up was a band called Anything Goes, which was playing when we arrived. To be honest, we did quite a bit of our walking around and photography while these guys were playing, so I wasn’t hanging on every song they played.

Having said that there were a couple songs which perked my interest, including some old Pat Benatar and their versions of current hits.

But once I recalled these guys were coming next, I knew it was time to go get my dinner and find a place close by where we could listen.

Smokin’ Gunnz is a veteran of several local festivals, and the reason they keep being invited back is that there’s a wide audience here for what they like to play: Southern rock.

And they put on a good show, with the unusual lead singing drummer Bob Morris.

These guitarists made for a hammering combination, Mike Brady and Terry Sherry, respectively. I always liked how Sherry plays.

Kim was more partial to this guy, guitarist Chris Della Porta.

Here’s a rock n’ roll veteran. According to the band’s bio, Brady has been playing in bands for nearly forty years.

Once the Gunnz wrapped up the show with some Lynard Skynard, those listening went nuts.

Smokin’ Gunnz hails from Pennsylvania, so they’re not necessarily considered local rock. But they play down this way several times a year – not just at Wicomico County shows, but in other venues as well. Most of their upcoming shows are in their home area but they will be following the bikers in for Delmarva Bike Week later this summer as they have done for the last couple years.

It’s worth mentioning as well that we didn’t stick around for the two headlining acts, although I’m not sure if the show went on anyway because the heavy rain which ruined Sunday at the event started later that evening. One was a Blues Brothers tribute called Briefcase Blues, while the other, Tuesday’s Gone, devoted their show to the aforementioned Lynard Skynard.

Unfortunately, those who run Pork in the Park haven’t returned to an event I liked because there’s no rock station sponsoring it anymore. Instead, they did it as a country show for Friday night and sorry, I don’t do weekend of local country.

But maybe if they can find a bigger locale they can go to a two-stage setup like the Good Beer Festival had last year. It’s another idea for that hopper.

Pork in the Park: the other side

April 27, 2012 · Posted in Business and industry, Delmarva items, Personal stuff · Comments Off on Pork in the Park: the other side 

If you hadn’t noticed, I’m taking a couple days off from politics here. Part of this is the simple fact I’m up at the GOP Spring Convention and the computer will stay home. I had issues the last time I took my laptop away so better to be safe than sorry – I will have my camera and notebook, so don’t assume I won’t be busy.

Yesterday I moderated a comment on my Pork in the Park coverage from last weekend, which started a brief exchange. It wasn’t the glowing commentary I usually hear about the event, but I’m sad to say the guy had a point. I happened to find an extended version of the comments on a foodie blog this gentleman, Ralph Rossi, runs.

His contention was that the festival is beginning to become a victim of its own success because the food vendors are so spread out. Some in the food court placed in its traditional location did relatively well, while the others relegated to the stone parking lot struggled to make their rent. Now I can understand where it would be a problem to have rib vendors stacked up on top of each other considering the traffic they can create with the popularity of their items, but I hate to hear anyone having a bad experience at such an event. Even if there’s rain in the forecast, no one should feel the need to cut their losses and leave the day before the scheduled end.

According to the official Pork in the Park website, this year there were over 35 food vendors with just about half featuring barbecue or pit beef. Add to that space for other non-food vendors, the competitors, the stage and picnic area, and the other features and it’s enough to almost make you wonder if they’re ready to outgrow WinterPlace Park.

On a personal level, when I first heard of Pork in the Park I compared it to an event I was more familiar with in my hometown. Originally held along the riverfront in downtown Toledo, the Northwest Ohio Rib-Off was an event more geared for retail sale than competition – over 20 vendors would be serving and it was a challenge to try them all during the three-day event. So only having a handful of rib sellers threw me for a loop the first time I came to Pork in the Park in 2005.

Now I’m not sure what prompted the Toledo event to relocate to suburban Maumee, but it’s now held at the county fairgrounds and that location has advantages: the former ballpark for the Toledo Mud Hens is still there, providing a grandstand for concerts and events – Ted Nugent was the featured performer there last year. There’s also plenty of parking, an adequate amount of open space, and the location is suited for traffic to come and go since it was once a baseball stadium.

Returning to our festival, it looks like Pork in the Park has moved up in stature to have nearly 20 rib sellers (plus a whole lot of other food offerings) so perhaps it’s time to upgrade the facilities as well. Unfortunately the county doesn’t have a space available to it such as Toledo does, but there are some possibilities which intrigue me.

One possibility would be to do a short-term lease (for a week or so) of the vacant parcels of land adjacent to Perdue Stadium. Obviously there’s plenty of parking there if the Shorebirds are away, not to mention the grandstand for entertainment, and if the Shorebirds happen to be home there’s always the possibility to reverse the idea the county has had the last couple years of using the Perdue Stadium parking lot for a shuttle stop for Pork in the Park by using WinterPlace Park as parking. They would also need to close the portion of the northbound U.S. 13 off-ramp which leads to Hobbs Road, but that would be a manageable closing for a weekend.

Another thought would be to use a combination of county-owned facilities which are adjacent to each other: the Civic Center, the parking lot across Glen Avenue, and Wicomico County Stadium. Since we already close Glen Avenue for certain Civic Center events the traffic interruption wouldn’t be unusual. Additional space could come from the land formerly occupied by the demolished Salisbury Mall. The beer garden would have to be across the road from the Civic Center but aside from that there’s the advantage of having indoor facilities in case of rain.

If they’re not planning on moving – and obviously there’s the familiarity of the locale since all nine Pork in the Park renditions have been held at WinterPlace – I think they need to devote more thought to perhaps using the side of the facility where the Equestrian Center sits for the competition side and opening up the side of the park where competitors are now placed to become a long, linear food court.

Whatever the best solution is, the time to think about it is now. With the 10th anniversary coming up next year, the crowds may be bigger than ever. I don’t like people to leave our little corner of the world unhappy (well, unless they are playing the Shorebirds) and reading Ralph Rossi’s complaints made me feel like perhaps changes are necessary to assure the event continues to prosper and help our area tourism economy.

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