Shad Planking returns April 15

Published 1:07 pm Monday, March 30, 2009

If a politician wants to get elected in Virginia, he or she has to eat shad and drink beer in Wakefield first, according to popular legend.

“If they aren’t here, they aren’t a serious candidate,” Robert W. Bain, chairman of the event, said with a laugh.

The 61″ annual Shad Planking, sponsored by the Wakefield Ruritan Club, will he held at the Wakefield Sportsman’s Club on Brittles Mill beginning at 2 p.m. Wednesday, April 15.

The four major candidates for the 2009 Virginia gubernatorial election — former Attorney General Bob McDonnell, the presumptive Republican nominee, and Democrats Creigh Deeds, a state senator, former state Delegate Brian Moran and former Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuIiffe — will speak.

The Shad Planking is held on the third Wednesday of every April in Wakefield, where would-be candidates, reporters, campaign workers and locals gather to eat shad, drink beer and kick off the state’s electoral season with speeches by politicians.

The event was originally a tribute to the start of the fishing season, but it soon gained a political function. The planking dates to the 1930s, beginning as a small gathering of friends to celebrate the James River running of shad — the oily, bony fish smoked for the occasion on wood planks over an open flame. The Wakefield Ruritan Club took over in 1949 and has hosted the event ever since on the wooded property of a sportsmen’s club near Route 460 in Sussex County.

“The menu this year will feature our trademark planked shad cooked over an open fire,” Bain said. “The Virginia Diner will provide its famous cole slaw and corn muffins. In addition, there will he shad roe and fish filets fried to golden brown, baked beans, sweet pickles, iced tea and plenty of other favorite beverages. This year’s event promises to continue the longstanding traditions of Shad Planking.”

Tickets are available through the Virginia Diner in Wakefield by calling (800) 935-4004 or through the Wakefield Ruritan Club by mail at P.O. Box 148, Wakefield, VA 23888. Credit cards are accepted at the Diner and on the Shad Planking Web site. Ticket prices are $20 through Wednesday and $25 thereafter. Further information can he obtained by contacting Bain at (757) 899-5263 or by e-mail at The Wakefield Ruritan Club Shad Planking Web site is at