For this installment I return with a look at some of the music from the Good Beer Festival. Unfortunately I missed the more enticing (to me) half of the music on Friday evening – a lineup that featured The Permilla Project, Anthony Calamoneri, Uprizing, and Petting Hendrix.
So the first act of my day there was the solo artist Winship.
What I will say about him is that he was good, but not particularly memorable good. I think part of that was getting my food while he was playing, which meant I wasn’t always close by the stage. He would have been a good fit for the old “bar stage,” which used to be a home for acoustic acts before they consolidated stages. I guess I’ll go with “elevated but easygoing style.”
Next up was the band billed as the Mark DeRose Band.
Dreadnought Brigade was the band I actually got to sit down and listen to, and I enjoyed them. While they did a sampling of originals, they made a lot of friends by putting a good spin on classics like The Way It Is (the old Bruce Hornsby song), Jet Airliner (Steve Miller) and a neat version of the Johnny Cash tune Ring of Fire.
The next band may have grown up listening to Johnny Cash, but they were far more modern.
I gotta be honest with you…modern country isn’t my cup of tea. They went over with me like a can of Bud Light would in the middle of this beer festival. Yeah, I remember Six Pack Rodeo playing a Skynard cover but I had pretty much tuned them out by the time I left. I’m sure they’re nice guys and solid musicians but I wasn’t into it.
Like I said, Friday presented the better musical options, although as part of what seemed like excessive cost cutting they dropped a half-hour of music off each day of the GBF (not to mention the dual stages a couple years back.) But one thing I can say is that they avoided using overly local bands for the Saturday show as two hailed from Virginia and one from Pennsylvania. (Speaking of bands from the Keystone State, it’s a shame that Smokin’ Gunnz is no more because they would have filled that last slot really well.)
So the next WLR installment for tomorrow talks about the Autumn Wine Festival, but I will have a special (and appropriate for the day) added surprise.
It’s been a few years since I got to share my experience at the GBF, for various reasons: I involuntarily skipped the 2016 event (because I couldn’t go that Saturday and Sunday was rained out) and last year I went but lost all my photos when my phone crapped out a few days later. So since the last time I got to do such a post a whole lot has changed – including the captions I can add.
I’m going to begin by thanking my DD, who is better known to most as my wife. She got this photo coming in to pick me up.
One major difference was having the GBF move to a Friday evening – Saturday schedule. From what I could gather from asking around, attendance Friday night was decent but not earthshattering – probably akin to a normal Sunday. But since photography isn’t nearly as good at night and being an amateur photojournalist is half the fun for me at the GBF, I chose to only attend Saturday.
They added a few different games for the people to try, like the large-scale beer pong and unique bowling alley.
It was a modest beginning to the day. Seemed like a lot of people in line, but once they scattered it looked a lot emptier.
If there’s one thing the GBF was not hurting for, it was food. This didn’t catch every food vendor, either – there were a couple around the corner.
On Friday night, this was the karaoke barn. On Saturday college football ruled the day.
This was one of a few tents with the non-local breweries.
Not that I needed a map, but this was the substitute for the guides they used to give out.
The problem with not having the guides (although most of us don’t carry a pen around, either) is that I had nothing but my phone on which to write down the ones I liked. As I’ll expand on later, though, they were few and far between.
Of course I stopped by to see my friend Shawn Jester, the leader of the local Republican club. It was his turn to be the hostest with the mostest.
Being a local election year, I was very surprised to not see them on the GBF video I saw from Friday night. Shawn explained that flooding at the warehouse where their items are kept put the kibosh on getting set up before the event, so they came early Saturday morning. Nor was the GOP weren’t the only vacancy, as there were a couple other open spots.
However, it’s worth noting that both Clerk of Court candidates were there: Bo McAllister was set up to the left of the GOP a few spots down and Chris Welsh to the right. It was good because I finally got to speak with Chris.
The Lions Club ran the cornhole tournament, which seemed to draw decent enough interest. There was usually someone playing as I walked by.
Finally, the sun came out and the crowds came out of nowhere to frequent the beer garden. This was taken about 2:30, two hours in.
Among that larger crowd: someone with a hat like this comes every year.
Remember that shot I took of the back of the beer garden? By 4:00 the place was hopping.
Even the human foosball was finally happening.
I had to leave about 4:00 when the event ended at 5:30 because of a family event. So here’s my parting shot, photography-wise.
Now that I’m through with the photos, it leaves room for a few thoughts.
I really can’t be a judge of how it went Friday night because I wasn’t there. But to me the issue with doing the event in this manner is that it discourages tourism – if you live across the bridge you would have to take off a half-day to attend and I don’t think all that many are willing to do so – particularly if Saturday looks bad weather-wise. I guess they were trying for a 3rd Friday vibe but I’m doubtful they succeeded. Nor did I think going to this sort of event after sunset was a smart play, particularly barely 24 hours after a torrential downpour from Tropical Storm Michael. (Notice the amount of straw in the photos.) Unfortunately, it meant I missed the better of the bands.
And speaking of that: I truly miss the two-stage setup. Sure, it left room for the games on one end but those were really underutilized. And they actually could have placed the main stage on the south end, kept the karaoke tent on the north end, and used that as the side stage. I guess as a cost-cutting move they hire fewer bands by having one stage.
In reading my older posts on the GBF, it’s apparent that either the number of breweries represented has declined somewhat or they are just not doing as many varieties. It was said there were 100 beers on tap, which may have been the case: but do you have to have half or more be IPAs? There are those of us who like the lagers, pilsners, blonde ales, and hefeweisens just as others like the stouts and dark brews. I felt a little underrepresented, although there were also a smaller number of pumpkin beers there, thank goodness. Of course, without a booklet guide it was hard to see where I wanted to go and what to try.
I also don’t know if you increased the vendor price but that seemed to be lacking, too. Granted, my experience was as a non-profit so our rules were a little different but the row of vendors seemed to be more anemic this time around. I also liked the previous practice of having the local beer garden more defined instead of just seemingly a random segment of tents that were clustered together.
I guess it’s time to stop beating around the bush with this piece: this year it felt like the GBF was the red-headed stepchild no one wants (not the craft brew of the same name.)
It seems like a whole lot of corners were cut this time around: for example, they always wanted the setup to be on Friday but having a Saturday-Sunday event meant two nights of security. Shift Sunday to Friday night and suddenly you only need one night of security, plus the lights that had to be there anyway could be taken down early Saturday night once the breweries were broke down.
Or make the Pub a karaoke tent and now you don’t need to rent a lot of seating. They’ve done one stage for a couple years, anyway, but by chopping time off each day of the event (it was a 5 1/2 hour window on Friday and 5 hour window on Saturday, instead of six both days) and cutting off the band time even further by the bands wrapping up a half-hour before the “official” end they’ve succeeded in cutting maybe 11 hours of live music down to eight. But you still have to have the sound set up so why cut the music?
When we lost Pork in the Park after a fairly successful run, we were told it was because the county wanted to concentrate on its other event held at Winterplace, the Wicomico County Fair. But the writing on the wall for Pork in the Park came a few years earlier after they mismanaged one year’s event into a cluster that angered a good number of vendors, then decided to double the admission price in the hopes a more well-known musical act may save the day. When neither worked, they downsized the event too much and never got the momentum back; meanwhile, our food tastes moved away from barbecue and on to other things. Now we have no such festivals when for a few years two had reasonable success.
I’m surprised to find that Maryland is one of the least successful states for craft beer – perhaps due to antiquated laws or just a population group that prefers other adult beverages. (By contrast, Delaware is a heavy-drinking state.) Another interesting fact: excluding Prohibition, the number of breweries in America hit its all-time low in 1978, when there were only 89. (Now just between Maryland and Delaware there are 94, a small segment of 6,372 American breweries listed in 2017.)
But at some point we will reach saturation. Remember how there were so many coffeehouses two decades ago? There is still a thirst for coffee, but the industry has consolidated: there are a few major players, particularly Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts, while regional and local shops such as Rise Up or Pemberton Coffeehouse remain as well. I suspect we are ready for a similar shakeout in breweries because tastes change and markets are fluid.
By the same token, where the Good Beer Festival was a rather unique event on its founding eight years ago, there are now beer festivals occurring in this region most weekends between spring and fall. Basically, I think the Good Beer Festival needs to become more of a destination: instead of dropping Sunday to add Friday night, go the opposite way and make it a whole weekend. Go back to multiple stages for music and catch those good up-and-coming regional acts like you did when you began. Perhaps try to get more beer-related vendors there, almost like a trade show. I think there can be a larger tent on the south end just for them so that aspect can be rain or shine.
By doing this and expanding the scope, you create an event that people interested in craft brewing regionally may want to spend the weekend at, sort of like how Pork in the Park used to attract BBQ teams from a wide area – except these folks won’t be camping outside cooking pigs, they’ll be using our lodging and eating at our other restaurants after hours – speaking of which, why not a 5:00 to 10:30 Friday, noon to 10:30 Saturday, noon to 5 Sunday event? Make it worthwhile.
Oh, and one more thing (and I can’t believe I’m saying this): they need to put a little fill line back on the cup. Maybe others need the full shot glass to taste, but I can get a good enough swallow with a half-shot to know whether I like it or not. People that stand at a tent and try six different brews have basically just consumed half a six-pack when it comes to alcohol (since craft beer is generally stronger.) I didn’t see too many unsteady people being held up by their friends yesterday but I didn’t stay until the end either.
The event this weekend came dangerously close to “meh…” for me, and if 40 people feel that way and stop showing up that’s $1,000 less the event brings in. As this is a fundraiser, one would think they would work on maximizing revenue by making it more attractive rather than get overly greedy for a subpar event or nickel-and-dime it to death like they did with Pork in the Park.
Oh, and I didn’t forget the music. There is a WLR upcoming from this, too.
It was a perfect day to be downtown and try a few local craft beers, so I went to the inaugural Salisbury Shore Craft Beer Festival (SSCBF) held downtown along the Riverwalk. (The Salisbury designation distinguishes it from a similar event with the same sponsor in Ocean City, the first of which was held last October.) It was also billed as a “Riverwalk Celebration” and while they are renovating it, there’s still some work in progress.
To be fair, I was looking west from the Division Street bridge and most of the Riverwalk lies east of the structure. But this was the site chosen for the festival.
Early on I thought the crowd was a little bit meager. I took this photo about 2:00, a half-hour after the gates were opened for general admission. (VIP ticket holders could get in at 12:30.)
One area where the festival will have room to grow is the food selection. The Division Street bridge served as a mini-food court.
As time went on, though, the crowds thickened a little bit. This photo was taken from along the river looking toward the stage.
One thing that I got to take advantage of was making my first visit to Headquarters Live, which was a nice place to sit down. There wasn’t a tent with picnic tables set up on the main festival site.
Now if you had the entry in the pool that said the first band I would see there would be called Billy Earl and the Pink Flamingos, you would be right – but I would have called you nuts.
I’ll have much more on them as well as Eastern Electric on the mobile stage when I do a “Weekend of local rock” post later this week, but suffice to say Headquarters Live is a smaller venue than I imagined. Yet the festival was shrewd in tying the outdoor stage and indoor venue together, with a separate wristband for each. This gives them a logical area for expansion beyond the small parcel that was used across Division Street and along the river.
As it was, there was a comfortable amount of people in the park where you didn’t feel like you were tripping over anyone yet there was enough to give the event some energy. Unlike the Good Beer Festival, which is held in a secluded location outside of town, people could readily walk in from outside but they could not sample the beer. Another asset was the fact that it was all local breweries – none of those mainstream brewers that are still considered crafters like Sam Adams or Blue Moon which come to the Good Beer Festival from afar. This will limit the event’s size to some extent as the area can only support so many breweries and expanding to markets farther and farther away will run them into stiff competition from their local crafters. There were twelve area breweries represented at the SSCBF, pouring around 30 beers as well as a couple of tea concoctions.
I think the event was rather successful considering it was held at a time when few other events off the beach seem to succeed. Most of our larger local festivals actually occur during what’s considered “shoulder season” before Memorial Day or after Labor Day. (April and October are the favored months.) In this case, the SSCBF was up against the OC Air Show and the end of the Firefly Music Festival as well as at a time when Salisbury University isn’t in regular session, so there were a lot of distractions. It may succeed a little more a week earlier or a week later, but this isn’t a bad summer event.
So we will see what happens next year and find out how much more of the Riverwalk they take advantage of.
I know it’s been awhile since I’ve done one of these, and what once was a monthly (or sometimes weekly) feature is down to two or three a year. As a guy I know would say, that’s a shame.
I also know it’s unusual to have WLR on a weekday, but this weekend I’m going to take a break from politics and do an all-music weekend – WLR today and Sunday sandwiching a music review tomorrow. Next week you may get the treat of two because I have a backlog of music to review. Besides a somewhat humdrum municipal election, it’s a quiet political time right now.
I’m starting with an event that’s become somewhat of a musical dynamo thanks to its two-stage setup, the Good Beer Festival. It featured twelve acts, with the bar stage primarily hosting acoustic acts while the main stage had full bands.
Bear in mind I also work the event so I don’t get to hear every song. Some of these are more detailed than others, but I always like to lead with the schedule to help keep track.
So I begin with the acoustic stylings of Phil Portier, who opened up on the bar stage. I will say I knew the Joe Jackson song he opened with so I could insert the “where?” at the proper place.
On the other end as Phil wrapped up was Paper To Planes, an acoustic duo hailing all the way from Kansas City.
I believe Don Adler was playing the GBF for the second or third time. But I didn’t get to see him play the unusual instrument at his feet.
Sam Birchfield was the first group where I noticed the merch table.
The Coteries at the bar stage also had merch. The New Jersey-based trio was disappointed they didn’t get to enjoy more of the event because of New Jersey traffic. They have several shows set up, which you’ll see if you look closely.
Wrapping up things on Saturday were local favorites Uprizing.
Having a local group to close in the prime slot was a little unusual. Previously they had reserved it for an up-and-coming band touring the region. I’m not sure if this will be a trend, but I liked the old approach better.
Whiskeybelly got Sunday started with an acoustic/electric combo – and a couple broken strings, which they laughed about.
On the other side, the GBF went country with the local group Haleytown – population 5. (The sign is a neat touch.)
Chris Diller set CDs and stickers at each table, and hoped people would fill the guitar case.
It always intrigues me how a guy can play so many instruments at once – needless to say, I can’t carry a tune in a bucket.
On the main stage was the group I thought stole the show, Sub-Radio Standard. It was the group I would have expected to close out Saturday.
Ken Wenzel was the headliner, if you will, of the bar stage. He played songs off the CD.
The Will Overman Band did their country best to wrap things up. I wish I had slipped around backstage to get a photo of “Big Red” – a 1970 Chevy Suburban they tour in.
So I was a little loose with the definition of “rock” in this one. Next year may be the year to just put the rock bands on Saturday and the country stuff on Sunday, since it seems to be getting about equal billing now.
On Sunday I look at the music from the Autumn Wine Festival.
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.
You’ll see more on my usual pictorial post tomorrow, but this evening I want to give my thoughts on where the political scene is among Delmarva beer drinkers.
Given that we were in the same situation as we were four years ago, in the early stages of a presidential campaign with multiple candidates, it was a no-brainer to do a poll of those attending. We chose to do a corn poll, where participants took a kernel and tossed it in the Mason jar of their candidate’s choice. And while the winner turned out to be Ben Carson, who eked out a narrow four-point victory, the general topic of conversation was one Donald J. Trump.
There were many who liked him, but for two different reasons. Most fell into the “he’s an outsider and we need to shake things up” camp, but there were a few who simply liked the ongoing circus. Many in that group considered Trump an “a–hole.” (It seemed women were more apt to use that term, too.) On the other hand, those who preferred Carson were more quiet about it.
It’s somewhat instructive, though, to recall that Herman Cain looked like a shoo-in for the 2012 GOP nomination at this stage in the race while eight years ago the polling was tight between Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani. The point is a lot can change, and if we go to the “next in line” as 2012 seemed to work, your nominee would be Rick Santorum, who is outside the top 10 in polling.
Yet I have to admit that those who believe Trump’s campaign will falter have been writing the same stories since the summer, if only to say they predicted it would happen. Driving out of the event on Saturday, though, I was behind a truck with a brand new Trump sticker on it, to go with a number of other stickers for candidates of both parties.
“The Donald” was definitely the leading cause of conversation in our little corner of the Good Beer Festival. At this point, the next question is whether he can win the old-fashioned way with retail politics. Sure, having large rallies is nice but how many are doing the field work. Our side thought Mitt Romney would win big based on his crowd turnout, but that’s not the way it went.
If you don’t like Donald Trump, you may be better off not dropping by our space next week unless you want your blood pressure to spike, I think he’ll be the hot topic once again.
One other quick observation. Rand Paul did tremendously better on Saturday than he did on Sunday. The reason? College students tend to come to the event on Saturday, while the crowd is significantly older on Sunday. It made a big difference on Paul’s support.
This year’s Good Beer Festival entertainment lineup featured an eclectic collection of bands, so let’s take a look.
One thing I should caution you about: my reviews of the bands are somewhat limited because I was actually working during the time, and I really couldn’t hear much from the main stage. On the other hand, I have more of an idea what was going on at the bar stage. Here’s the lineup.
It meant GBF veteran John Emil Montagino and his unique bluesy guitar got the proceedings underway.
There was a lot of jamming during the set, the mournful guitar matching the dreary day. On the other side of the festival they were getting ready to use this bass.
It belongs to Cool Hand and the Swagger, who opened up the main stage.
Back at the bar stage, it was the acoustic stylings of Lauren Ventura, who had a more conventional guitar and country influence.
Children of a Vivid Eden performed next on the main stage. I think they were here last year as well.
Things got funky on our bar stage end when Uprizing took the stage. Anyone like to twerk for a shirt? They were asking, but I wasn’t taking those photos.
As you can tell, it was lightly raining at the time but they had energy to spare.
The final band of Saturday was The Stickers. From what I gathered they were a country-rock band, but overall I couldn’t really tell from my distant vantage point.
Generally the band which plays last on Saturday is the biggest name draw, as they try and select an up-and-coming artist. In this case, the Pennsylvania-based band has made some impact on the country scene. But there weren’t a huge number of people left around to see them on a chilly, drizzly day.
Sunday began with Landing Mary, which did a great job of constantly re-introducing themselves (which made sense, as people were arriving as they were playing) and noting they were proud enough of their home state to use it in their name. The music wasn’t half-bad either, sort of a 90s alternative groove.
On the main stage to begin were Such Fools.
Since they also played the Autumn Wine Festival yesterday I can tell you they interpret classic songs in a unique fashion given their instrumentation.
Don Adler was the requisite second acoustic act on the bar stage.
What’s sort of sad is that he played nearby yet I really don’t recall a lot of it because I was moving around at the time. Apparently he’s a guitarist of some repute.
But I will tell you who sounded from our end like they were jamming, and that was Eastern Electric.
They were a bright spot to a dreary day, at least to the lady in the foreground who was dancing.
Wrapping up the bar stage for the GBF was the multi-instrumental duo of Smoking Flowers. Yes, she broke out the accordion.
And she can play guitar. And there was actual sunshine, too.
Another country-tinged act, they seemed to play best when she got behind the drums.
Finishing up the Good Beer Festival was perhaps the most eclectic band of the lot, Community Center.
Alas, what they played didn’t seem to hold the interest of a quickly dwindling crowd. But there’s always someone who enjoys the music.
This year the Good Beer Festival leaned heavily on a country sound, drawing some acts from Nashville itself while reserving the top billing for a regionally-known act. In many respects, my title is a misnomer because it wasn’t all that local and not much of it was rock.
It just didn’t seem to me that the musical selections were that great. I know most of the couple thousand who come to the GBF are really not there for the bands, but I think they have picked a lot better in years past. It wasn’t just the weather that was a disappointment.
Plagued once again by poor weather on its bigger day (Saturday) nonetheless hardy beer enthusiasts from around the region gathered to sample a few swigs and generally celebrate all things beer.
Did I mention the weather was subpar? At least we salvaged one decent day, unlike last year.
Unlike last year’s effort, though, there weren’t a whole lot of new wrinkles. Coming back for another year, for example, was the home brewer’s competition and dedicated area.
Another old favorite kept around was the TV lounge, where people cheered on the Ravens and Orioles on Sunday.
Close by were the cornhole games and that maddening peg hook test of skill.
Once the skies cleared for Sunday, those in attendance could (and did) express themselves.
Those chalkboards were mounted aside the local beer garden, which had an interesting occupant.
Perhaps Backshore Brewery (from Ocean City) was here last year but I don’t recall the old VW Microbus.
They also win the monoblogue prize for the best beer name. That and $4 would have secured a pint, I guess.
Yes, I did try it and I thought it was pretty good. But their Boardwalk Blonde Ale was one of my two favorites along with the Shotgun Betty Ale from Lonerider Brewing, which I think came from North Carolina.
Perhaps pale ales weren’t this guy’s style, but it’s what I prefer. I just wanted the shot of his hat, a style I saw on a couple people over the two days. I didn’t notice anyone selling them.
Another local brewer, though, was angling for donations to a different cause.
Burley Oak is doing a Kickstarter campaign to enable the canning of its beer – as it turns out, they achieved their goal. But the coasters were a nice reminder and quite useful, since that coaster is under my drink (alas, diet Pepsi) as I sit here.
Oh, did I mention I was there for political reasons?
It wasn’t quite dripping with political types as the last time we were in a local election year (the first rendition of the GBF back in 2010) but some of the local political incumbents came to cut the ribbon Saturday.
Doing the honors in this instance were four members of County Council: Bob Culver, Matt Holloway, Stevie Prettyman, and John Hall. Culver was around on both days to press the flesh for a County Executive run, but he was pretty much the only one there.
Yet the reception at our tent was quite good and I handed out a lot of items. My emphasis, particularly with out-of-town people who were interested in Larry Hogan items, was on promoting William Campbell for Comptroller and Jeffrey Pritzker for Attorney General. Those statewide downballot races are very important as well.
And despite the rain attendance held steady, described as just under 3,000. It’s good exposure and this year there wasn’t much obnoxious behavior. In short, a good time was had by all.
Oh, and about that top picture? I’m not averse to bartering advertising space for a monthly supply…just saying.
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.
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.
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 Watchwill be back again to keep an eye on him and his cohorts. I’ll be volunteering for a second year,
This meeting had a much different vibe than the previous three simply because there was no guest speaker. Instead, we broomed the speaker’s portion of the agenda in favor of catching up on old business and soliciting ideas for new ways of conserving our funds and raising more. Suffice to say there were plenty, which worked out well given club President Jackie Wellfonder’s request in her report to make suggestions. (One other suggestion was to post minutes rather than read them at the meeting, which took effect this month. Soon minutes of meetings extending back to 2010 will be available for online inspection.)
Now we did get our treasurer’s report, but without the physical reading of the minutes or speaker we moved rather quickly into the Chairman’s Report from Dave Parker. He related that we have a “bunch of candidates” for County Council but none had given the green light to make their plans public. Parker also reminded those attending that the Central Committee would meet one week hence in the same location so we can make plans for our state convention November 22-23 in Annapolis. He also spoke a little about the issues of gun control in the state, pointing out problems with our registration system and remarked that “everything about Obamacare is botched.”
The abbreviated schedule also enabled us to hear from a number of candidates, who updated us on their efforts.
Mary Beth Carozza, running for Delegate in District 38C, let us know she was “staying on her three tracks”: door to door, fundraising, and events. She commented that her reception had been great thus far, and “folks do want to believe” they can make a difference.
Christopher Adams, a Delegate hopeful in District 37B, credited his work over the last three years on behalf of a business group as providing the motivation for him to run. New regulations were “unpalatable” to him. He also recalled the situation where he was to testify on a sick pay bill but was cut off because the gun law had to come to a vote at the behest of the Obama administration.
Turning to local races, Marc Kilmer mentioned his work in his district as well as meeting voters at the Autumn Wine Festival. He contended, though, that “rural Wicomico County has a lot of challenges.”
Meanwhile, Muir Boda was also a fixture at many of the same events Marc had attended, but his focus of late was on local land use issues, as people were showing “a lot of concern about that” as well as about property rights. He was planning on visiting a number of local municipal meetings over the next month or so to familiarize himself with those communities.
Since the tier maps subject had come up, I took a moment to remind people that our lack of an approved map meant we could not subdivide any parcel into more than seven lots.
A less weighty subject was our annual Christmas party, which promises to be quite an event with a buffet dinner, cash bar, live and silent auctions, raffles, and entertainment by Peter’s Voice – all for $20 (or $35 for couples) with advance purchase. It will be held December 15 at Mister Paul’s Legacy from 5 to 8 p.m.
We also had a discussion of whether to enter into the Jaycees Christmas Parade, which was left unfinished until more information was gathered. Much of the conversation was about just how much exposure we would receive.
I gave an update on our candidate recruitment, which Dave Parker remarked was as good as he’d ever seen. I added that interest in the club and its events was quite strong, which led me into a report on the Good Beer and Autumn Wine Festivals. Despite the poor weather, I assessed them as vital to our mission in gathering exposure for candidates – a point echoed by many who were there.
We then batted around ideas for a spring fundraiser, with a number of recently popular events in mind. We just had to work around the Lincoln Day Dinner to be held in March 2014.
Opening up the meeting to comments from the gallery, we were asked about the idea of a “Contract with Wicomico” – an idea some favored while others disagreed.
It was also brought up that the WCRC would soon be able to accept payments online through our website, which will be of great benefit for fundraising.
Since County Council member Gail Bartkovich was in attendance, an onlooker asked what the body was up to. They had taken a short break but were preparing to tackle the aforementioned Tier Map issue in a work session, said Bartkovich.
Woody Willing piped up that 32 precincts and 10 polling places had been approved, with some more work to finish before all is complete. One new wrinkle is a requirement that all polling places allow electioneering, which some had forbidden in the past. Those will no longer be used.
This was a productive meeting – a work horse as opposed to a show horse, if you will – but our next meeting November 25 will feature local 2014 candidates as well as reaction from the state party’s Fall Convention.
If you can’t tell the lineup without a scorecard, it’s probably good that I begin with this photo.
I always find it very helpful that the folks who run the Good Beer Festival put this board up, although I think I would prefer it arranged by day, with Main Stage as the left column and Bar Stage to the right. But it turned out there was a snafu regardless.
I’m not sure what happened with Lauren Ventura, but she ended up being placed between two acts on the Main Stage. So the first to play was actually Captain Blue’s Grass Band.
Captain Blue (aka C.J. Cutsail) is the host of the radio show “Local Produce.” But along with his co-host Josh Rose, they comprise 2/3 of this band that veers along the lines between bluegrass and acoustic rock. They reminded me of another group which didn’t make to our festivals this time around, Chester River Runoff.
Because Ventura was bumped over to the Main Stage, it meant Chad Abernathy opened the Bar Stage.
I didn’t catch too much of his show – the Bar Stage was on the other side from our location – but it seemed to be mostly originals performed acoustically. He had female accompaniment on some songs as well.
Meanwhile, Lauren Ventura got her show in. She’s a singer/songwriter from Nashville who seemed to embrace the conditions.
But since Abernathy and Ventura were playing at the same time on opposite ends of the park, neither had the benefit of full attention. Since she only had one instrument, though, Lauren could easily clear the way for Eastern Electric. That even became easier when it was just one performer.
I’m not sure just what happened with Eastern Electric, but this is what became of them.
That was a little disappointing, since I enjoyed their predecessor band (The Electric Co.) and thought I’d hear some familiar tunes.
I wasn’t disappointed with The Hot Meals, though. To me, their music sounds sort of like an old favorite from my FNV days, The Permilla Project. (The two bands have one common player, drummer Sean Miller.) Maybe one can call it “smooth rock” because there seems to be a little jazz element there.
But the final band of the day took the cake. This photo was from the sound check, when I said, “damn, who are these guys?” That was also before the rain began.
Well, they are called Bush Hawg, and they are an up-and-coming band in what I suppose is considered the “modern country” genre.
Now the song that attracted my attention in the sound check isn’t one I found on their website, so I may be wrong on the title – but the chorus line is “God save our country.” But they also played their single, “Crushin'” which is more of a ballad but has charted in the top 30 on the “Music Row Country Breakout Chart”, so it was sort of a shame so few were left after a soggy day in Maryland.
And it’s not like they didn’t know how to rock – not with a medley which took pieces from Guns N’ Roses, Queen, and Red Hot Chili Peppers, plus the full tracks of “Seven Nation Army” and the old Cars tune “Just What I Needed.” They also have a remake of “Fortunate Son” on their EP which they played.
So Saturday evening ended with their hard country. On Sunday, we had a cloudy and breezy day to greet music lovers. But all the bands played as scheduled, beginning with the one-man band, Kevin Poole.
It was a little guitar, a little singing, a little percussion, a little harmonica, and a little marketing.
Over on the Main Stage, Sunday began with power pop from Rew Smith.
It turned out that they were the most enjoyable act of the day for me; just simple, straight-ahead rock and roll.
The second of three acoustical acts over on the Bar Stage, Mike Weyrauch held court.
Now I’ve heard him on “Local Produce” and on his CD playing originals, but the couple songs he played while I was over there were covers. Hopefully he introduced that side of the GBF to his own stuff.
Some original instrumentation was the key to Children of a Vivid Eden, back on the Main Stage.
The same held true across the way as John Emil wrapped up over at the Bar Stage with some acoustic slide guitar.
Well, that and the percussion box he could tap his foot on.
Pressing Strings wrapped things up for a rapidly dwindling crowd. It seemed like people left early on Sunday. In all honesty, I think the Main Stage lineup would have worked better in reverse, with Pressing Strings being the opener and Rew Smith wrapping up. It’s nice to have an active band to finish, as Bush Hawg did the evening before.
One thing I like about the GBF is their willingness to go outside the area for different acts – for example, Lauren Ventura and Bush Hawg are Nashville-based and Emil hails from Florida but has mainly toured in Virginia and North Carolina this year (with a 16-stop European tour thrown in.) To me, it provides more of an attraction.
So now that I have this edition of WLR in the books, I’m working on the next while at the Autumn Wine Festival. Since there are only seven bands and one stage at the AWF, the next installment will be shorter than this was.