Wicomico County Fair 2018 in pictures and text (part 2)

So when I last left you, I promised to tell you about Blue Ribbon Drive. For those who don’t know the area too well, it’s the street that bisects Winterplace Park (where the WCF is held) from north to south. But over the weekend it was a pedestrian mall of sorts.

Looking north along Blue Ribbon Drive. It was a clever usage of the street so the path these vendors were on wouldn’t be muddy.
Now I’m looking south. One of my favorite vendors (insofar as tweaking the Left is concerned) is second one in – the Atlantic Tactical Firearms Trainers tent.

The only people who may have been disappointed with the setup were the people who ran the rides, but they were actually closer to the action this year even being across the street.

I don’t do rides, but I’m sure the kids wore them out.

Nestled toward the south end of this road were my erstwhile colleagues at the Wicomico County Republican Party.

Ellen Bethel was one of many GOP volunteers – I saw Mary Beth Carozza there for the second time this weekend, after catching her coming in as we were heading out Friday evening too. That woman is everywhere. My old friend Bill Reddish, meanwhile, was manning Andy Harris’s space.
I heard there was a lot of angst on the Mathias side about this sign. Notice how he’s trying to get closer to Larry Hogan these days?
Sorry, Jim, but your voting record is very Jealous-like. Birds of a feather and all that.

I noticed on social media that the Governor made his rounds Saturday before we arrived. This actually did us a little bit of a favor as it turned out. While I have another point to make in the meantime, don’t worry – I won’t forget to close that loop.

Moving the vendors and the rides left a nice space. I guess you could call it a beer garden but it served as food court and musical entertainment center.

I’m looking from the west end of the shady main lane toward the stage in this shot that was taken Friday evening.
Perdue was all over this event, as you may expect. Unfortunately, a Korean BBQ chicken sandwich or Old Bay Alfredo wings didn’t sound too good to me. Hope that wasn’t their Wing War entry.

So it was an unusual place for this tent.

The Wicomico County tourism tent. I guess it was too big to just put along the road – or they wanted the captive audience?

Speaking of unusual, look closely at this equestrian photo.

I’m probably glad I didn’t catch this guy’s act. It’s called The Jump of Death with Sir Barchan of Renaissance Stables.

We spent a lot of time this weekend, though, watching my wife’s favorite equestrian event: the Mason Dixon Deputies mounted shooting.

The perfect photo. I finally figured out how to get good motion shots using the “Burst” function on my cell phone camera. It made for some great action photos since old, slow me can’t outwit a 1/10 second snap if I hold halfway still.

Consider that the next two pairs of photos are 1/10 second apart and you’ll see the quick reactions this sport requires. (And how good it makes a schmuck photographer like me look. But I selected the shots and cropped them a wee bit.)

Now you see ’em, now you don’t. But you never hear the balloon pop over the sound of the revolver firing.

The red one on the left? My wife loved the late (yes, it was extra, she already got stuff) birthday present.

Now my wife and stepdaughter can coordinate – one has the red version and the other black.

It’s been a really good fit for the Wicomico County Fair since they brought the Mason Dixon Deputies in three years ago – the four-stage event takes up three to four hours. In this case they went Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon – the former, in particular, packed the bleachers so I’d say 300 to 400 were watching.

In between runs, the riders made sure their horses got plenty of water and (especially) shade.

The daytime hours were fit for neither man nor beast at times thanks to the humidity.

Oddly enough, their Saturday stages were supposed to begin at 2 p.m., but because Governor Hogan was here and loud gunfire would (understandably) put his security on edge, they didn’t start until after 3, just as we arrived. So Kim got to see pretty much everything before we left to see the Scrapple. (Normally they’re the Delmarva Shorebirds. Considering they won Saturday night as the Scrapple and are 0-2 since, maybe they should have kept the unis.)

Besides the Mason Dixon Deputies and checking our photo entries, there is one other thing at the fair which is a must-do for us.

My wife has known Pastor Oren Perdue for years, ever since her daughter began going to the Salisbury Baptist Temple summer camp (the one with the weekly rodeo) as a six-year-old. (This summer she finally aged out after thirteen summers.) So over the last three years we’ve played hooky from our church to listen to Perdue’s much more impromptu service.

Pastor Oren Perdue, founder and pastor emeritus of Salisbury Baptist Temple. For the last three years, he’s been delivering a church service at the WCF. Photo by Kimberley Corkran.
Definitely not the most formal church setting, and probably not a tent revival either. But we still had music. Photo by Kimberley Corkran.

If I had a bone to pick with this year’s fair – which was otherwise the best in the three years under the current format – it would be that either the church service needs to allowed to begin at 10 a.m. or the rest of the events go off at noon. I understand the desire for something like the Mason Dixon Deputies to want to get an earlier start and avoid the heat of the day for the sake of the horses, but that and a church service really don’t work and play well together.

But I think I have the 2018 Wicomico County Fair pretty well covered – Lord knows I spent enough time there to get the flavor of it.

They even had a reminder of the next item on the docket.

Next up in less than eight weeks…

Just hope the weather cooperates for that one. The GBF is my favorite local event, but the Fair gained a lot of ground this time around.

Can Salisbury be Hockeytown south?

Over the last couple days there has been quite the buzz about Salisbury becoming home to professional hockey at long last, since the alcohol restrictions on the Wicomico Youth and Civic Center are no longer in effect. One story on the WBOC-TV website quotes an official with the Federal Hockey League, which is a lower-level minor league comparable to an independent league in baseball as teams are not affiliated as farm clubs for a particular NHL team. According to Andrew Richards of the FHL, “for a team to survive, each game would generally need to see 1,200 to 1,500 attendees at roughly $10 per ticket.”

It’s interesting that this post will come right after my Shorebird of the Week post; however, I am a much more casual hockey fan than I am a baseball fan. I lived in Toledo, a city with a longstanding minor league hockey history dating back to the 1940s, and attended one or two games over the years (as opposed to perhaps fifty Mud Hen games.) Yet the criteria Richards uses is definitely doable if people are willing to spend a little bit more than they would for a Shorebirds game.

However, if Salisbury wants to have a successful hockey franchise, the FHL may not be the place to be. Formed in 2010, the league has suffered some serious growing pains to get to its current 7-team status. (Six clubs played in 2015-16; a seventh team in St. Clair Shores, Michigan is an expansion team for 2016-17 and the eighth team out of Watertown, New York is supposed to return from a one-year “hiatus” this fall.) The other serious contender would be the Southern Professional Hockey League, a ten-team league that is several years older and seems to be more established. They have an eleventh team that is taking a year off in 2016-17 due to renovations to its arena, so Salisbury would be a good fit as a twelfth team for the 2017-18 season.

But travel would also be somewhat more of a concern for an SPHL franchise – while Salisbury is not in the geographic center of either loop, the closest SPHL team would be in Roanoke, Virginia, which is about six hours away. Its other franchises are in Tennessee, North Carolina, two in Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, Illinois, and Indiana. On the other hand, there are two FHL teams about five hours away, in Danbury, Connecticut and Brewster, New York. There are other teams in New York and New Hampshire, but the western side of the FHL is Midwest-based with franchises in Ohio, Michigan (2), and Illinois.

Attendance-wise, though, Salisbury could be one of the more successful FHL teams. Both the SPHL and FHL give host teams 28 games, but attendance at SPHL games is comparable to the South Atlantic League in minor league baseball, where teams average between 2,000 to 3,000 a contest. Using Richards’ formula, none of the six FHL teams that played last year would be a success: the closest two were Danville, Illinois, which averaged 1,120 and Port Huron, Michigan, which drew 1,044 per game. The other four ranged from 243 to 774 per game, which meant half-empty (or even cavernously vacant, in Dayton’s case) arenas. Unfortunately for Salisbury, the more successful FHL teams tend to be in the Midwest so we may not have close rivals; moreover, I’d have serious concerns about the entire league going belly-up, which may be why they are pursuing our area so hard thanks to a reasonably-sized arena and presumably hockey-starved market. (They obviously factor in the thousands of NY/NJ/PA retirees living less than an hour away in Sussex County and Ocean Pines.)

So nothing is official yet. But to paraphrase Ben Franklin, we may get ourselves a hockey team – if we can keep it.

2015 Good Beer Festival in pictures and text

For six consecutive years I’ve been a part of the Good Beer Festival. After getting its legs under it and enduring a couple years of subpar weather in 2013 and 2014, the hopes were high for a banner event.

They didn’t take credit for the weather, but as always a number of local politicians crowded around the ribbon cutting. Accompanied by the fine folks of Wicomico County’s Recreation and Parks were (from left to right) County Councilman Marc Kilmer, County Council President John Cannon, County Executive Bob Culver, Senator Jim Mathias (in back), Delegates Carl Anderton (in back), Christopher Adams, and Sheree Sample-Hughes, and County Councilman John Hall.

One thing I liked was the schedule boards they added to alert those who came to the GBF to the various events going on that day. The event is focusing more and more on the home brewers, so the talks from local brewers were popular with that set.

As usual, Saturday drew the larger crowd. I took the photos at 1:30 and 3:30.

It didn’t seem quite as busy as last year, but not for lack of trying. Ever try human foosball?

Looked like fun, although it was a little cutthroat. On the other hand, the VIP tent seemed like it needed a little something – like people.

The local beer area is always a favorite, though. It features the ever-amusing chalkboards.

So went Saturday. As you may have noticed, Sunday was a clear, lovely day. But the crowd was far smaller.

Granted, I took these photos a little later in the day, but the attendance was probably half or less. Personally, I liked not having to deal with the larger crowds.

As long as they stopped by our tent…

…and participated in our corn poll.

Those who had the fullest Mason jars were Ben Carson and Donald Trump.

This was the perspective we had, as the sun was setting on another edition of the GBF.

So I close with this photo, just because I liked it.

In a few days I’ll do my look at the bands of the GBF.

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.

Another prediction of job creation

In the post I recently did about wind power, I pointed out that beginning in 2017 Maryland electric ratepayers will begin a 20-year process of chipping in $1.7 billion in subsidies to the developer of an offshore wind farm off the Ocean City or Assateague coast. Yet a new study claims that Maryland could reap far greater economic benefits over the next two decades if offshore drilling is allowed in the region, with even larger payoffs for Virginia and the Carolinas by virtue of their longer coastlines. Nearly as important are the thousands of jobs which could be created – something wind energy producers can’t match.

There’s no doubt that these rosy scenarios presented by Dr. Timothy J. Considine of the University of Wyoming and the Interstate Policy Alliance (which includes the Maryland Public Policy Institute) were made up to encourage the loosening of restrictions on offshore drilling. Yet they also take into account the cost of environmental factors in a reasonable way, which balances the picture. It turns out that Maryland is one of the better cost/benefit performers of the six states (Delaware, Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia) included in the study.

It also goes without saying that our Senate representatives are foolishly dead-set against the idea, signing onto an August letter which claimed detrimental effects on tourism in the highly unlikely event of an oil spill. (A few Maryland House members signed a similar letter.) While tourism is a good thing and we’d like to encourage more of it, the value which could be added to our economy from oil and natural gas is far greater.

At this early stage, the next move seems to be simply testing to update decades-old mapping which suggests there’s a potential for millions of barrels of oil offshore. Any actual drilling is probably years and several court battles away, as it’s almost a guarantee that Radical Green will throw the legal kitchen sink at any attempt to drill for oil in the Atlantic. May I kindly suggest they go pound sand.

But if they insist on building wind turbines offshore, it should be noted that oil rigs and wind turbines can coexist and once the oil is tapped out the platforms can be put to good use. These uses don’t have to be mutually exclusive, but in terms of current economics it’s difficult to match the high subsidies required to get companies to even consider offshore wind when compared to the clamor of energy producers to see just what’s underneath all that Atlantic coastline. If Larry Hogan really wants the “all of the above” energy approach, he should embrace the prospect of offshore oil exploration.

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.

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.

Pork in the Park 2013 in pictures and text

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.


Dock Daze 2012 in pictures and text

Over the weekend, Wicomico County’s Division of Recreation, Parks, and Tourism went to the dogs, literally.

My significant other Kim Corkran took that shot, as both of us attended the inaugural Dock Daze event at Cedar Hill Marina in Bivalve with cameras in tow. Her shots will be interspersed among the remainder of the narrative.

There were two main components to the event. At one end you had the dock dogs, who on Saturday were leaping into a large swimming pool instead of off a literal dock. For many, seeing dogs get ‘big air’ and land with a splash was the main attraction. (Top photo by Kim Corkran, bottom photo is mine.)

The idea, as you can see in the top picture, was to lure the dog off the dock in pursuit of a toy. Generally dogs would leap between 15 and 20 feet from the end of the dock to the point where the base of their tail hit the water, with the best approaching 25 feet. (Apparently the world record is just over 29 feet.) The other components to the competition, conducted over the event’s two days, were a vertical leap contest and speed retrieve, with an overall winner crowned from the top finishers in each portion.

For their part, the dogs were just happy to get their toy and a little love from the master. (Both photos by Kim Corkran.)

There were one or two shy guys who wanted no part of the water, though. Dogs had 90 seconds on the dock to complete the jump and this one said ‘you want me to do what?!?’

On the other side of the marina there was a boat docking contest underway.

The idea of boat docking was to start at a point, accelerate to get into position, and quickly reverse course to back into the dock. Ropes were to be tossed over the four marked pilings, with the entire process generally taking between 20 and 30 seconds.

But the crowd enjoyed watching.

Another interesting attraction was chainsaw artist Rick Pratt, who demonstrated his ability several times over the two days.

Watching him work with the chainsaw, the random thought I had was whether he can do ‘The Lumberjack’ by Jackyl? I don’t know about that, but Pratt can create some seriously sturdy artistic objects.

Also in between were the usual array of food vendors and other selling wares of some sort. This outfit which sells The Fish Bomb was a key sponsor, and covered the bases well with a couple mobile billboards.

One of my favorite sponsors is moving beyond the Good Beer Festival to become a staple at local events.

Maybe they need to support their Maryland blog? Anyway, this tent had other popular sellers.

But I can’t bring myself to have a breakfast like this.

Maybe the closest the affair came to political was the tent put up by the Maryland Waterfowler’s Association, which advocates for duck hunters and the like.

You may have noticed the sign on the bleachers at the boat docking contest, but the local television program ‘Outdoors Delmarva’ was getting footage at the event for future episodes as well.

Surely there will be a lot of dogs and boats on their program over the next few weeks as the hunting seasons wind down and the tourists move in full force.

Kim gets the last shot. As we were leaving she took this picture looking down the marina. You’d never know there was an event going on nearby given this placid shot.

Since we didn’t stay for the whole day or come back on Sunday, there were a lot of things we missed like the live music, Sunday’s duck calling challenge, or the sailboat and paddle boat races also scheduled for Sunday. (With the heavy winds, those may not have occurred.)

But on the way out I believe I heard that about 1400 tickets had been sold, which would put this event in the same ballpark as the Good Beer Festival. Considering the somewhat small venue and remote location that’s a rather healthy turnout so I would anticipate a second event next year. If we were to go, though, next time we camp out on the hill and watch the tapestry unfold from there.

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.

The federal land grab

Over the past few weeks there’s been a push to place more of the land below our feet under federal control.

Using the lure of potential tourism dollars, Democratic members of Congress from both Maryland and Delaware have submitted bills to set aside land for a national historical park – Maryland’s would honor Harriet Tubman while Delaware’s would encompass a number of the state’s historical sites. In particular, the Delaware lament is that they are the one state without a national park. (Hey, they’re also one of just five states where their state capital isn’t served by an interstate highway either, but I’m not seeing a clamor for something more important like that.)

Certainly there can be a case made that some historical areas are worth seeing and rank among the nation’s top tourist attractions. But the argument can and should be made that, if an area were worth preserving, it would have already been done by now. And, as fellow bloggers in both states point out, what other restrictions will be placed on those who live in areas surrounding the parks? In particular, Ann Corcoran speaks from experience, and as she notes:

I’m not saying economic development is bad.  It’s just that when governments and developers team up to cheat or trick landowners that’s where I object.  Our Founding Fathers would, I am positive, agree with me.

By the way, the strategy is always the same—they dupe those true historic preservation-minded citizens with this “preserving our heritage” mumbo jumbo into being shills for the plan.   What about our heritage of private property rights and limited government?

And a side note: remember awhile back when there was a development planned for a tiny sliver of the Blackwater area? Well, those 3200 homes and the golf course will be a distant memory now that the state has its clutches of the land, but perhaps the even more onerous taskmaster would be the federal government. They’ll allow the state its $8 million boondoggle that’s already in the works, but that’s about it. Isn’t it nice to have a park suitable for maybe a three-hour day trip but nowhere to stay or play nearby because the natural beauty of farmland must be preserved?

It’s worth pointing out too that the federal government already controls about a third of the land mass in the country, although the vast bulk of the area is west of the Mississippi. Yet they can’t maintain what they have, nor are they eager to allow mineral, coal, or fossil fuel exploration under their land (which could help defray part of their upkeep costs.) Although it’s doubtful we have that particular concern under the Delmarva Peninsula, the counties affected will have to deal with the projected vast increase in tourism without the help of the property taxes they may have collected from the government-owned land.

Sometimes the powers that be just do something because they can. The state already has its mitts on the most important part of the Tubman area and presumably the same situation applies in Delaware for its historical sites. To me, that’s plenty enough protection – we don’t need Fedzilla telling us what to do as well.

If anything, let’s start returning land to taxpaying status and encourage upgrading our infrastructure to accommodate more commercial and industrial development to go along with the bid for more tourism. While it wouldn’t be appropriate to render these historical sites worthless by crowding them with development, we don’t need them to exist in isolation either.