An evening (and day) at the Wicomico County Fair in pictures and text

August 22, 2017 · Posted in All politics is local, Business and industry, Campaign 2018, Delmarva items, Personal stuff, Politics · Comments Off on An evening (and day) at the Wicomico County Fair in pictures and text 

While its root event, the former Wicomico Farm and Home Show, would have celebrated its 80th anniversary last year, the Wicomico County Fair officially celebrated its third edition in the county’s sesquicentennial year. As I sometimes do, this post will meander between photos and text to tell its story.

We actually attended all three days of the WCF, although Friday was just for a brief stop to see how our photos did.

Do you see the purple ribbon signifying Best in Show? One of mine is next to that on the left, just one of the also-rans. Kim had two of hers place in their categories, but that was about it between the three of us. I thought I had some nice photos, but I guess the judges liked others better.

So that was the extent of our Friday, although our daughter stayed to watch the concert (from local boy gone Nashville Jimmy Charles) and fireworks.

Now that we knew the fate of our entries, we came back on Saturday to see one of our favorite events at the WCF, Cowboy Mounted Shooting.

When the WCF became a fair in 2015, this was an event that was brought in. It’s probably the biggest draw they have as the bleachers are usually well-filled to watch this competition, which is one of a handful of fairs the local Mason Dixon Deputies group does around the region. Of the evening shots I took I thought this was the best.

Once the competition stage was over – each runs about an hour, give or take – I decided to get off my behind and walk around.

I did so only to find that a lot of the WCF was hidden across the road behind the rides.

I found several vendors and some other attractions not easily found by the casual visitor.

Because the Cowboy Mounted Shooting runs its own soundtrack (a surprising mix of country, classic rock, and a little bit of other stuff) I didn’t hear the bands until I was almost on top of them. This one was called Rip Tide, which played a few classic rock staples to close their act.

As we had a bite to eat from the (somewhat limited) selection of vendors back there, this group called Swamp Donkey took the stage as we ate. They were in the same vein as a number of albums I’ve reviewed over the last couple years – sort of a mix of country, Americana, and roots rock. The band sure put a spin on Pink Floyd, though.

This photo was just a cool shot that provides a transition break.

On Sunday we were there before noon in order to hear Pastor Oren Perdue preach, with a message gleaned from the Book of Amos. It’s not one of the more studied books, but he made the message interesting. (If your child attends the Summer Fun camp at Salisbury Baptist, you’ll know who Pastor Perdue is because he runs the Friday evening rodeo. That’s how Kim met him.)

Since we started from the side I’d seen the evening before, we made our way back. This train wasn’t doing much, nor had it the evening before.

I noticed the ride price had been changed to “free,” which helps make a point I’ll return to in a bit.

And if it’s a agricultural event in this county, you’ll see one company there almost every time.

I liked this truck better, though.

That blue-and-yellow Perdue label was found a lot, not to mention the orange and green of competing tractor companies, too.

The orange ones did more work, as their local outlet was a sponsor of the mounted shooting.

The state of Maryland even had its nose in with an agriculture RV.

Cops on one side, fish on the other: the state was well-represented.

You could even find a few non-native beasts.

And here’s a clash of cultures: a cowgirl on her smart phone.

Day 2 of the CMS competition was packing them in again. And I swear I didn’t touch the second shot, but I used it solely because that point of light was in a rather interesting place.

Yet the mounted shooters weren’t the only equestrians there, as much of the grounds were taken up for more traditional competition.

And I don’t think there’s much call to remove this plaque from their venue.

Nor would it be a fair without barnyard animals.

Look, I grew up in a rural county so I’m aware of the extent 4-H is still popular among the youth here. Inside the Carriage House was their competition field (as well as that for the rest of us) in arts, crafts, and yummy looking items from the gardens and kitchens of Wicomico County.

I was disappointed by the truck show, though. It wasn’t what I was expecting – these would have been nice additions to some classic old restored Big Three trucks and maybe a few Jeeps and imports. Not just a handful of work trucks.

And while it wasn’t unexpected, we arrived too late on Saturday to see LG Boyd Rutherford. In fact, I really didn’t see many candidates pressing the flesh at the WCF when I was there, even though the local GOP was in its usual place. Most of them participated in the Saturday afternoon parade, then skipped out to other events, I guess.

The only candidate with a regular presence there was Jamie Dykes, a Republican running for State’s Attorney. Granted, she was very diligent about being there and engaging voters.

Next year, however, the joint will be crawling with them. I wonder if they will resurrect the buffalo chip tossing I once participated in as someone on the ballot to be elected.

But if I were to make a suggestion for next year, it would be to somehow better tie in the two sides of the fair. Because of the lay of the land, the poor vendors on the east side of the road had hardly any foot traffic (and at least one I spoke to complained about the lack of it.) Maybe the rides need to go at the very end, with the beer garden and vendor row placed closer to the center. In fact, I was told by city councilman Muir Boda (who I did see there) that the dunking booth the Jaycees were sponsoring was vandalized overnight on Saturday. So something needs to be done about that issue.

Once they got through the sauna of Friday evening (and the monsoon that followed, luckily after the fair ended) though, the weather turned out near-perfect. It looked like they had great crowds, the likes of which I haven’t seen before at the Fair (or especially its predecessor Farm and Home Show, which was about on its last legs.) So if they can get the siting issue fixed for next year (a large map would definitely help!) they may have a strong event worthy of the county it represents.

Judging the revamped Wicomico County Fair

August 17, 2015 · Posted in Business and industry, Delmarva items, Personal stuff · Comments Off on Judging the revamped Wicomico County Fair 

For many years the Wicomico County Republicans have been proud participants in the Wicomico County Farm and Home Show. But after last year’s sparsely-attended rendition, it was decided a change was needed.

In reading last year’s feature, the comment was made that they needed more people to help out. Enter the Salisbury Chamber of Commerce, who had the rights to the old Delmarva Chicken Festival, and the re-christened Wicomico County Fair was reborn in its 79th year. So how did it go?

There was still a lot of tradition there…

…but they kept what was good about the old event and added a lot more.

One of those holdovers drew a lot of spectators on Saturday evening, as they kept the Cowboy Mounted Shooting event.

The idea is to shoot the balloons off the cones in as quickly as possible. On a horse. I suppose it’s a little easier on us humans than to run through the sand ourselves and do it, and a better spectator sport.

As I said last year, though, it would be interesting to get a more full-fledged competition. Maybe next year.

But there was a lot which was new and improved. One thing dragged out of mothballs was the giant frying pan made famous at the Chicken Festival.

I’m sure this sponsor has been there all along, but the chicken tie-in was surely encouraging for them.

The fair also included a “beer garden” for the first time, although it was more of a standard food court. Ice cream was among the favorites, and you couldn’t miss the rhythmic sound of this motor they used for churning.

This area, however, also presented a opportunity to vastly expand the musical entertainment as a number of local bands played the fair. The Barren Creek Band was among those that played Friday evening.

On Saturday night Red No Blue was the opener for Petting Hendrix. They were wrapping up as I was leaving.

Another area that was a noticeable draw was the variety of kids’ activities. Those kids who exhibit goats, sheep, or cattle need to have a little playtime, too. It was more than my cell phone could get in one shot.

Truth be told, given the nice weather and the additional interest, those exhibitors who used to be inside but were outside this time around – such as the National Aquarium and Maryland Right to Life – likely had more traffic than the Republican Club had inside the exhibit hall.

One thing I didn’t get a picture of was their display, but the club did. It’s not a state election year so we didn’t have a lot to stack up.

I thought this sign belonged there, though.

Since both of them are Republicans, we could lay claim to it but it was actually the county’s sign that was placed across from us.

Finally, speaking of judging, there seemed to be more entries this year in the photography contest. I entered a handful of photos but no ribbons for me this time. Maybe next year.

But if I were to give out ribbons for most improved local event, I think the Wicomico County Fair would be a recipient. I’m glad there was some new life breathed into this venerable event and hope its 80th edition next year will be even bigger and better.

Wicomico Farm and Home Show 2014 in pictures and text

It’s not a whole lot, but it is ours. Over the weekend another Wicomico Farm and Home Show – the 78th annual – was put in the books. As has been the case the last several years, I was there to help with the Republican table.

Of course, the indispensable part of the program was sitting at the table when I took that shot. Blan Harcum was one of many volunteers who helped out, though, so thanks to Helen, Marc, Jim, Woody, Leonard, Ann, and anyone else who spent some time there.

Some of the candidates stopped by over the weekend as well. Thursday afternoon brought two County Council members and a third who wants to join that body.

Marc Kilmer (left) is running to represent District 2 on County Council, and as he noted it’s the most rural district of the five. Arguably, Joe Holloway (right) represents the second-most rural district in District 5, while Bob Culver (center) is currently an at-large member who is now trying for County Executive. His watermelons were a hit.

I didn’t stay too long Thursday; my main job was to get set up and check on the photos we entered. (More on that in a bit.)

So when I came back Saturday, I wanted to see what else was going on around the WHFS, beginning with the exhibit hall.

It was dominated by one feature, which returned from last year.

The National Aquarium brought back its inflatable whale, along with a table and accompanying signage.

In a similar vein but parked outside was the Phillips Wharf Environmental Center bus.

But the main purpose of the show was to highlight the farms and crafts of Wicomico County. On the farm side, there were all sorts of barnyard animals, such as these.

Just outside there, nervous contestants waited as their animals were judged. I think these guys were done, though.

On the inside of the exhibit hall, there were crafts and hobbies galore. I can see why this quilt won, although the best in show was very nice too.

Fortunately, it wasn’t just these attractions. The kids had their own little tractor pull, although there wasn’t a version for the big kids this year like there was last time.

Not that they didn’t have tractors around.

I’m sure the old ones are priceless to the owners, but I was floored to find out a similar tractor to the one I pictured (a Case/IH model as opposed to a John Deere) can run well north of $35,000.

As they did last year, there was a car show – one with its share of trucks, naturally.

But the most interesting truck to me was this – one of the two military-themed trucks in the show.

The directional sign is supposed to resemble the one from the old TV show M*A*S*H, and it indeed includes Toledo in honor of Corporal Max Klinger. Actor Jamie Farr is a Toledo native.

This was a nice touch as well.

There was plenty of action in the horse pen, with an exhibition of Cowboy Mounted Shooting.

CMS is supposedly a fast-growing sport, with seven to ten new people signing up daily. It combines the agility of barrel racing with the accuracy of shooting – competitors try to shoot each of ten balloons on a preset course, with time penalties for missing a balloon or knocking a post over. Among the participants in this exhibition was the reigning Ohio state champion, who’s from Delaware but recently won the title in a competition in Wooster, Ohio. (By the way, the bullets are modified theatrical blanks.)

It would be interesting to see if they could get a real, sanctioned competition here next year. Unfortunately, the organizers really didn’t have much in the way of activities during the late afternoon hours leading up to the awards.

One of those awards came right back to my household, as my fiance Kim won Best of Show in black-and-white photography. And if you recall that old tractor I pictured above, my photo of the slightly-less restored version from last year won me a second place ribbon in its category. (Yes, I took it at the 2013 WFHS but didn’t use it in the post.) Not bad for a rookie who only entered three photos – although Kim and her daughter Kassie both had more first place ribbons than I had photos.

For next year, I’m sure the Wicomico GOP will have a presence, although it will be more muted after the 2014 election. If the creek don’t rise I’ll have some pictures and hopefully they’ll attract more events. The 2016 rendition will be the 80th annual so it’s time to build momentum.

The final appeal

June 23, 2014 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2014, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Personal stuff, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on The final appeal 

Tomorrow the vast majority of those who will participate in our primary process this year will go out and vote. While early voting did bring a few to the polls, about 70 to 75 percent of the overall vote is cast on election day, based on previous results. And if you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m on the ballot tomorrow as I run for one more term on the Wicomico County Republican Central Committee.

Perhaps some of the others who are running have spelled out their agenda for the next four years, and we on the Central Committee have a lot to do in the next 4 1/2 months – our terms do not end until after the polls close November 4. I’ll be busy trying to find volunteers for the Farm and Home Show, Good Beer Festival, and Autumn Wine Festival. All these events are important for voter outreach and I have served as a coordinator on all these the last several years, along with being the Secretary this term.

But a couple weeks ago, before early voting began, I wrote a piece on my campaign’s social media page outlining my goals for the next Central Committee should I be fortunate enough to be re-elected.

*********

Now we’ve begun the actual voting process, the culmination of a campaign which began for me when I filed back in February. I could only imagine how it is to toil for 18 months or more to win a regional or statewide office, and several candidates have gone that long in their quest. The beginning of the end of my quest for a third (and final) term on the Wicomico County Republican Central Committee opened last Thursday morning at the Civic Center when the polls opened.

Bear in mind that, win or lose, my current term doesn’t end until the polls close on November 4, 2014. We all have a single-minded goal to win as many elections as we can for local Republicans, particularly in races where we can unseat longtime Democrats like Rick Pollitt, Norm Conway and Jim Mathias. With that said, while I’m pleased with a lot of what I’ve done over the last eight years, I have some unfinished business I’d like to attend to over the next four.

First and foremost, candidate recruitment has to step up. We have a good team in place right now, but there are some holes we need to fill around the county, and a particular focus for the next four years is finding people willing to participate at the community level in towns like Salisbury, Delmar, Fruitland, and the others around the county. These local elections are stepping stones for eventual candidates, but they’re also the place where prospective campaign managers and treasurers can learn the ropes as well. This even extends to recruiting for other appointed posts such as zoning boards and similar local openings which can use a dose of conservatism. I would like to see a well-connected member of our group be the point person for knowing which openings can be filled and looking for the right people to apply.

A second focus is the quest for an elected school board in Wicomico County. Obviously we can go a long way toward that goal by making a couple changes in our elected officials this year, since Rick Pollitt and Norm Conway have been the roadblocks in place over the last four years. If not, we have to aggressively pursue other avenues such as a petition drive. We believe the county should join much of the rest of Maryland in pursuing that course; personally I think we could model it on our existing County Council districts.

Lastly, there should be better organization at the precinct level. Now that we’ll have an idea of just where precinct lines will be, the next step is to seek out and find local leaders who can work at the grassroots level. It’s a role which can evolve, but as an example when I led a precinct over a decade ago I printed and distributed a quarterly newsletter to my GOP constituents alerting them to candidates and issues we as a party were promoting. Some of us are already developing databases which can be of assistance in this regard.

Don’t forget you can vote for up to nine of us. I can work with any of the other twelve on the ballot, but the key for me is making it into the top nine once again. In 2010 I made it by just 30 votes and I wouldn’t be surprised if things are that close again.

You can make the difference. Ask yourself: what other candidates have spelled out their agenda to such a degree? Only a few of us bothered to fill out the League of Women Voters questionnaire, but I’ve not been shy about saying exactly where I stood on the issues.

So this is my case. I’m asking for and would appreciate your support between now and June 24.

**********

I was also one of the few Central Committee candidates to fill out a survey from the state’s League of Women Voters. Bear in mind I had to stay under 400 characters, so it was a tough editing job.

**********

1. Qualifications: How do your qualifications and experience prepare you for the duties of this office?

I have already served on the Central Committee for eight years, currently acting as the Secretary. It’s the culmination of nearly two decades of political involvement both here in Maryland and in my native Ohio. I also serve as the Secretary of the Wicomico County Republican Club, and have been entrusted with a leadership position there for the last several years.

2. Priorities: What should be the priorities of the party?

As a local Central Committee, our most important job is recruiting and supporting Republican candidates for elective office. But a key secondary duty is registering new voters as we try to make this a Republican county. Our candidates should stand for limited government which exists at the level closest to the people, so that local matters are handled here in Wicomico County and not Annapolis.

3. Filling Vacancies: If the Central Committee is called upon to choose a candidate to fill a vacancy in the General Assembly or other office, what would be your criteria for selecting the replacement?

In my time on the Central Committee, we’ve had to replace Page Elmore in the House of Delegates and Bob Caldwell on Wicomico County Council. While the rules are different in each case – particularly in Elmore’s case, where he passed away during a contested primary – the aim is to find a good, conservative candidate who will best represent the people as well as hold the seat in the next election.

4. Open Primary: Would you support opening the party’s primary to voters who have not chosen a party affiliation on their voter registration?

I do not support an open primary. While there are compelling arguments for an open primary, I believe that the closed primary represents an incentive for interested voters to choose a party. Unless the primary is opened up for both Democrats and Republicans so that unaffiliated voters have that choice, the GOP should maintain its closed primary system.

**********

In closing, I should remind voters that many of those who are or seek to be on the Central Committee will be in attendance at the Wicomico County Republican Club meeting tonight. We’ll be meeting at the Chamber of Commerce building, 144 E. Main Street in downtown Salisbury. The social time begins at 6:30 and meeting at 7.

Several members also attend a pre-event Happy Hour at the Cellar Door Tavern, which is located at 111 Camden Street. That begins around 5-ish and runs until around 6:30 – we’re informal like that.

And despite the fact it’s elsewhere on the page, let me note: For items which pertain to my campaign Michael Swartz for Republican Central Committee – Authority: Kimberley Corkran, Treasurer, Michael Swartz, Candidate.

There. Now I’m covered. So if you want to cover the common-sense conservatism space on the Central Committee, I would appreciate your vote tomorrow.

2013 Wicomico Farm and Home Show in pictures and text

Most counties have a traditional county fair, but ours does it a little differently as they bill it the Farm and Home Show. But it’s on the 77th annual rendition, and as always they promised a whale of a time.

Actually, this 70′ long whale replica came from the National Aquarium in Baltimore. Not to be outdone in the aquatic wars, the Phillips Wharf Environmental Center brought out their Fishmobile.

Somewhat more on the exotic side were these alpacas, which are raised locally for their wool. They are not camera-shy, either.

Yet while all three had their patrons, the WFHS still had its bread and butter of more mainstream, rural attractions, like this mechanical bull.

This was accompanied by a somewhat obnoxious huckster who probably made his money off the photos he was selling for $5 a pop. Nice work if you can get it, I suppose.

But much more work went into the exhibits which were spread throughout the Farm and Home Show’s exhibit hall and show areas outside. Whether it was produce…

…or livestock…

…or horsemanship…

…dozens of youth and adult participants competed for the elusive blue ribbons and best of show designations. And it wasn’t just in those categories – photography holds a special place in my heart as well.

You likely can’t see it on the left, but one of my fiance Kim’s pictures is there with a blue ribbon on it, denoting it won its subcategory. On the right is one of her daughter’s photos, with not just a blue ribbon for subcategory but a purple one denoting “Best of Show” out of the entire junior division.

I also happen to know the woman who swept the adult “Best of Show” divisions, and it was no surprise Francie Davis won those because she’s won at the Delaware State Fair before. I’ve seen her work there and she’s quite good.

Yet there were other competitions held at the Farm and Home Show. Over the course of Saturday afternoon the antique tractor pull pitted man and machine against weight and mean old Mr. Gravity.

If you liked smoky and noisy, that was the event for you. And the kids even got to join in the fun – with pedal power, of course.

This big kid likes to see cars which were around when he was a little one – yes, I am a sucker for a car show.

This old Ford Fairlane was fascinating with its retractable hardtop. Not sure I’d be a big fan of what would then be a trunkless car, which is probably why the concept never caught on.

But I do like the more exotic models – not necessarily the 1950s-era Bentley someone brought, but this old Nash Rambler.

I’m of an age where I remember a dashboard full of doodads like this one.

And there’s other interesting detail as well. How did we survive with these bumpers?

I’d be curious to know where this was in Millsboro. This dealership has probably been out of existence for forty years or more, but lives on with the nameplate.

There were also people hawking their wares. One of the more interesting people I ran across was E. Dee Monnen, who is an author and one-time president of our Wicomico County Republican Club. So what does she mainly write on? Old-time baseball.

As I found out, her interest in the sport came from her grandfather. He was a contemporary of the legendary Washington Senators pitcher Walter Johnson and was, in fact, his first mound opponent, she claimed.

Of course, I was there to handle the Republican table at the event. Muir Boda took my pic there, with longtime volunteer Bob Miller on the far left (a rarity.)

Apparently, though, I missed out on many of the politicians who dropped in. While I saw County Council members Joe Holloway and Bob Culver in my rounds today, apparently Delegate Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio, Delegate candidate Mary Beth Carozza, and Delegate Charles Otto were supporters of the auction they held Friday night and Delegate Ron George dropped by yesterday to say hello and drop off some “Ron George for Governor” yard signs (which, by the way, are in my possession at the moment.)

I also saw this worst-kept secret made official.

Looks like Jim Mathias has a fight on his hands.

But as another Wicomico Farm and Home Show went into the books, one has to ponder if it’s going the way of these tractors: old and functional, but symbols of another time passed by.

I saw quite a few kids there, but many more gray hairs. If the WFHS is to survive, I think it needs to find some more items to cater to a younger crowd. It’s most likely the Wicomico GOP will remain there as supporters, but they truly need to figure out a way to increase attendance. There’s no admission fee so no one really counts the patrons, but if there were 500 people on the grounds at any one time (including workers and help) I would be surprised.

Maybe it’s time for a fresh approach. If antique tractors and cars can be made into works of art, so can this event.

Update: Speaking of antique tractors, I wanted to point out one more thing and it actually works into the theme with which I concluded.

I don’t know the woman personally, but being in the farming environment I’m sure Katie Howard has earned every one of her gray hairs. Yet that didn’t stop her from getting off the sidelines and trying her first “hook” as a tractor puller.

She didn’t win her class, but she pulled it a respectable distance – more than some of the others pulled. A little more speed and she would have done even better; of course, that knowledge comes from experience and she could be better next time around.

It’s that combination of experience and willingness to try something new which often leads to success, and it’s a lesson for the WHFS to learn for the 78th rendition next year.

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