Down in southeastern Virginia, a few miles from Rte. 460 (aka “the Peanut Highway”), they are laying shad on the wooden planks and rolling out the kegs of beer today.
Today is the Shad Planking, the annual celebration of the Southampton Ruritans and formerly the biggest day in Virginia politics. Indeed, back in the day, the Byrd Organization selected their candidates at the gathering, which drew the attendance of every elected Democrat in the state.
Even as recently as 2005, the various statewide candidates would pack the piney woods with supporters, while posting thousands of yard signs on the road side between Petersburg and Disputanta. (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, find a map). My last trip down there was with Jim Webb, in fact.
The candidates themselves would go head-to-head on the stage, trading barbs, while beer-drinking onlookers roared their approval. I wrote my first post on this blog after attending the 2006 Planking. Now, it’s all about wine and cheese receptions in Arlington or Charlottesville. Welcome to the Zinfandel Dominion.
God I miss those days.
Unfortunately, the Planking has been hexed over the past few years. Most critically (and tragically), the event is held the same day as the anniversary of the Virginia Tech massacre of 2007, which is a date commemorated in Virginia. Secondly, it’s often the same day as our veto session which pulls away at least 140 of the more dedicated politicos in the state.
(Note to the Ruritans: the Virginia Tech Remembrance date will never change so you may need to plan around it.)
Finally, the Commonwealth has just changed. The eastern population centers hold the key to electoral victory. There is not a lot of incentive to attend a rural political gathering — especially when the participants are largely, perhaps exclusively, Republican.
But that’s political strategy, which is boring. The Shad Planking is fun.
At some future date, it would be nice to see a statewide Democratic candidate who attends the Shad Planking in force, not to win votes or change minds but simply to enjoy the fresh air, the baked shad — and a cold beer.