Allen mentions tea parties, IP at Shad Planking

Published 8:32 am Friday, April 23, 2010

WAKEFIELD—Several hundred people braved the rain and were rewarded for their patience just moments before former Gov. and U.S. Sen. George Allen spoke at the 62nd annual Shad Planking on Wednesday.

“In an “off year” for statewide elections, Allen was the keynote speaker at the event, which annually draws candidates for statewide and local offices. The rain stopped just before Allen took the podium outside the Wakefield Sportsmen’s Club.” He welcomed the crowd and gave a nod to the several tea party groups that had turned out.

“We see people all across Virginia, and all across our country, upset with Democrats and Republicans,” Allen said. “We see the growth of this tea party movement. Folks are riled, stirred and dismayed with the disconnected, out-of-touch and burdensome government that doesn’t reflect our values nor our priorities.”

Allen also addressed local economic issues, including the closure of the International Paper Co. mill in Franklin.

“The people around here in this region know how important jobs are to this community,” Allen said. “There clearly had to be a number of factors, including global competition, that led International Paper to make the hard decision they made to close the Franklin mill. However, it’s fair to say that this mill, and other paper mills and indeed many other manufacturers across our country, are being increasingly burdened by high energy and regulatory costs that, if not constructively addressed, will create the real potential for similar adverse decisions.”

Terry McAuliffe, who spoke at last year’s Shad Planking as a Democratic gubernatorial candidate, worked his way through the crowd of a few hundred people, greeting supporters. He had a small plastic “Bob McDonnell for Governor” cup in his hand.

“I think there was a lot of excitement last year with the governor’s race,” McAuliffe said. “It’s a great crowd. Where else can I come and Bob McDonnell buys me a beer? This is as good as it gets. Last year I said I was never going to miss (a Shad Planking), so I’m meeting one of my promises.”

Southampton County Circuit Court Clerk Rick Francis said he has attended the Shad Planking for about the last 13 years.

“It’s always enjoyable,” Francis said. “It’s interesting to see the ebb and flow of Virginia politics. Sometimes it’s strong one way and sometimes it’s the other. Local politics is really the lifeblood of America. My only regret is that I wish we were in more of an atmosphere of cooperation. I think government works best when there is compromise and conversation.”

Asked what was different about this year’s Shad Planking, Francis said, “This is the first time I’ve seen tea parties. I’m just afraid that the spirit of cooperation is diminishing and everyone is becoming more polarized. I’m hoping that the swing of that pendulum won’t be as broad, and they’ll get back to cooperation.”

Francis, who is an elected official, added, “Quite frankly, and I’m speaking for myself as well, I really think that in local politics the people in office are trying to do the best they can and do right by the people they serve. When you say ‘throw everyone out of office,’ I really think you lose a lot of the people who have dedicated themselves to serving the public.”

According to the Wakefield Ruritan Club, Shad Planking was originally a tribute to the beginning of the fishing season and dates back to the 1930s. It especially celebrated the James River running of shad, an oily, bony fish that is smoked on wood planks and was being served Wednesday with sides of pork-n-beans, a mini corn muffin and a cup of sweet tea.

Over the years Shad Planking evolved into a political event. The Wakefield Ruritan Club took it over in 1949 and has been hosting it ever since on the grounds of the Wakefield Sportsmen’s Club.