As the old saying goes, there are two sides to (almost) every story, and the annual event in Crisfield provides plenty of comparisons.
Take the location for example – a marina filled with boats valued in the tens of thousands of dollars hard by low-income housing. Denizens of the immediate neighborhood look forward to the Clam Bake as it provides an opportunity to sell parking spots to people who don’t wish to walk as far to the event.
In short, they create their own economic development. But bringing 3,500 visitors to Crisfield is an economic boost to the area.
While the event has a reputation as a political stop, there is a business element there too. Some companies look to get or keep their name out in the area.
Others use it as a reward to their customers, hosting elaborate parties within the party.
But the crowd was noticeably smaller than last year’s. Yes, this is not an election year but even the number of businesses which took tent space seemed smaller. How often do you see this?
Maybe it’s something about Area 51? But this is a shot I took around 1:30 or so at the peak of the festivities.
Compare that crowd to this still shot from last year.
Even the mugs weren’t being snatched up as quickly.
As you’ll notice in the panoramic picture, there are two main areas where crowds gather. On one side are the smaller tents set up for businesses and groups. But many people sit in the pavilion and enjoy musical entertainment.
I can’t say I’m a fan of country or bluegrass, but a number of people sat under the pavilion to listen.
I know, I know – you readers are saying, “Michael, you have a political website. What’s the political dirt?” Well, there are two sides to that as well.
One guy who seems to straddle that line is Bruce Bereano, who annually has among the largest tents and his own “corner.” However, with a revised setup this year he was more in the middle.
In a nice touch, Bereano has honored a local leader for the last couple years.
If you don’t believe he works to both sides of the aisle, consider that the following two signs were close together on his tent.
Could this be the gubernatorial matchup for 2014? Peter Franchot could obviously be entrenched as Comptroller for as long as he wants to be but my feeling is he wants something more. Meanwhile, David Craig is term-limited as Harford County Executive but obviously has a run for something in mind three years hence. My guess would be that “something” is a long-term stay in Government House.
A matchup which will occur sooner is a statewide battle for the U.S. Senate seat held by Ben Cardin. Presumably he was a little busy today, but a number of volunteers were sporting his colors and registering voters as they stood in the food lines.
Arriving a little later was a man who’s aiming to be his Republican rival, Dan Bongino. Here he’s talking to Bill Harris of Cecil County.
I also spied Eric Wargotz there with his wife. But he wasn’t openly campaigning at this time.
Like Senator Cardin, Congressman Andy Harris was likely a little busy today but had volunteers and signs with a sharply pointed message about. Eventually a lot of folks were wearing yellow Harris shirts.
By gosh, I think Andy is right. But there was someone quite familiar to him there.
Allow me to pose a question. Why would you spend $200 on tickets and a half tank of gas to come down and eat crabs one can probably get just as readily in Queen Anne’s County? Perhaps it’s a case of best two out of three? For all his talk about time with the family I don’t think, given the power and prestige of a seat in Congress, he can let it go just to be a cheerleader for Ben Cardin.
And there were a few cheerleaders for our state’s junior Senator.
Yet the Democrats had a modest, unassuming presence compared to the GOP.
That’s not to say both parties weren’t represented, to be sure. Here’s two of our best freshman Delegates, Charles Otto and Justin Ready.
They weren’t the only freshmen Republicans there, as I saw Michael Hough, Kathy Szeliga, and of course my Delegate Mike McDermott at the event.
Meanwhile, Wicomico County Executive Rick Pollitt was reaching across the aisle, greeting old friends in the Somerset County Republican tent.
On the other hand, Norm Conway was holed up around the Democrats’ base.
Even the unaffiliated were there. Yes, last I checked Laura Mitchell of Salisbury City Council doesn’t state a party affiliation. I did catch up to her just outside the Democratic tent, though.
Nor was national politics forgotten. Kevin Waterman (who some may know for the Questing for Atlantis website) came supporting his choice for President, Gary Johnson.
Republican politics must run in that family – his mother Diana (who I cut off in the photo) is First Vice-Chair of the Maryland GOP.
Needless to say, the media was there as well. WBOC-TV was on location shooting footage, and I saw print reporters and fellow bloggers about, too.
But I’m curious if anyone else will report on this tidbit.
Notice the flag placed in the corner of the Democrats’ tent? It’s the Wicomico County flag.
Now I’m not convinced that the official imprimatur of our fair county should be in that tent – granted, Democrats have a plurality of voters here but Republicans hold more elected seats in county government. If it’s an endorsement of Democratic principles (such as they are) for our county, consider me as a conscientious objector.
So while the turnout was smaller than in years past, it was still a good event for the Crisfield community. And the rain, which I noticed on my drive back, stayed away.
Look for an interesting cast of characters for next year’s event, which should fall after the 2012 primary on July 18, 2012.