Shad Planking was a disappointment yesterday for any of a number of reasons. Leading up to the event, the sponsors failed to stem years of cumulative attendee alienation. Responding to criticism of extremism among participants, the Ruritans alienated the other half. Ken Cuccinelli's keynote was as flat as the shad.
What was clear was that the bluster of Tea Party insurgents and in-your-face Confederate flag-waving misfits in recent years put off a large portion of the politically motivated who came for a more civil kind of camaraderie. The Ruritan Club's charitable efforts to raise money for local causes was wounded by this turn of events. Make no mistake, this was a self-inflicted wound.
Ruritan officials took issue with Mo Elleithee's assessment that the event has outlived its relevance, claiming it will live on another 65 years. Apparently the fact that the proceeds go to charity is supposed to excuse the inhospitable behavior that has been tolerated too long.
As anyone who has attended regularly knows, when the dinner bell rings there is always a rush to get in line for the featured meal. But a crowd that was less than 60% of last year's was underwhelming. As a measure of success, the meal became a no wait, all you can eat event, there was so much remaining to be consumed.
For their part, the Ruritans tried to stomp out any confederate frenzy. The stars and bars displays were confined to a corner near the porta potties away from the midway lined with campaign tents, many, including Cuccunelli's hawking free beer. Ruritan officials circulated through the crowd, stopping anyone with a flag; requiring them to roll them up and put them away if outside the free rebel quarter (more like eighth).
For his part, the Attorney General's keynote was sparsely attended. Ken did not connect effectively with the general audience and not that much of the crowd was interested enough to come to the stage area to listen. In years past, a front row view was a premium. This year there was room to stretch...and yawn.
While both Mark Obenshain and and Rob Bell were in attendance, the Republicans who were missing were more notable. Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling and Republican Party Chairman Pat Mullins found no reason to grace the event. This, more than the absence of Democrats, may signal the end of the plank.
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