Shad Planking 2016: Same Traditions, Different Day

Popular Wakefield Ruritan Event Moves to Friday For 68th Annual Event

WAKEFIELD – The iconic event of the town of Wakefield and Sussex County and one of the biggest events in Virginia politics is returning for its 68th year but with several notable changes as the Wakefield Ruritans’ Shad Planking moves to Friday April 22 for this year’s event.

This is a significant change from the past according to organizers, remarking on their website, “As long as anyone can remember the Shad Planking has taken place on the 3rd Wednesday in April” and the request to move the event to a different day from eventgoers has been present just as long.

“Everyone agrees that the annual Shad Planking is always fun, but many people just can’t attend on a Wednesday,” organizers said of the change in date to Friday. “This is why the Wakefield Ruritans, the nonprofit hosts of the event who serve their community through “fellowship, goodwill, and community service,” decided to change the day of this amazing and worthwhile Virginia tradition.”

“The Shad Planking is a good Virginia tradition and an opportunity to reach out to Southside Virginia and the rural community,” said Former Lt. Gov. John Hager at the 2014 Shad Planking. Hager told the Sussex-Surry Dispatch that this is one of the reasons he returns to the event in Wakefield year after year.

In addition to Hager’s regular presence during the Annual Shad Planking, the event continues to draw many year after year.

Shad Planking Walkway“I love coming here. It is a reunion of so many good friends throughout the years,” George Allen told the Sussex-Surry Dispatch last year. Allen has been coming to the Shad Planking since he was a state delegate and through his time in public office. He has been the featured speaker at the event four times since 1996.

“You get to see folks eye-to-eye and they can ask you questions and discuss issues,” he commented. “People are cheerful and smiling. The Ruritans are a great organization that help out a lot of community projects here in the area.”

“It is the way politics ought to be,” Allen continued. “Having easy access to who you are serving and those who seek to do so.”

Along with the traditional wooden plank-prepared shad, eventgoers will be able to try some of the Commonwealth’s very own wineries and distilleries’ wares as at least ten makers will join around 50 vendors and exhibitors at the Wakefield Ruritan Club facility just on the outside of the town’s limits for Shad Planking and Grapes and Grains Festival.

Emceeing the event will be passionate advocate for family farms and property rights Martha Boneta, who is known in the community for her work behind House Bill 1430, known as the Boneta Bill, which guarantees individual liberty and property rights for farmers.

According to event organizers, Boneta grew up in Mt. Vernon on what is believed to be part of George Washington’s vast farmland, where she dreamed of one day owning her own farm.

“There is something so powerfully and fundamentally Virginian about farming. There were farms in Virginia before there was a United States of America,” Boneta told Shad Planking organizers. “It’s our heritage, and it’s not just our economic heritage. It’s our cultural heritage and it’s our historic heritage.”

Boneta speaks all over the country on farming, property rights, and environmental issues and, according to organizers, she teaches farming practices to inner city children and has donated tons of vegetables to Virginia’s food banks and families in need.

The Shad Planking traces its origin to the early 1930’s when a group of friends gathered together at Wrenn’s Mill in Isle of Wight County during the spring running of the shad in the James River. They planked the shad after the tradition of native Virginia Indians and they talked politics after the tradition of their fathers before them.

As the tradition grew, the Wakefield Ruritan Club assumed sponsorship of the event in 1949.

The gathering is truly a unique assembly of the many and varying views of the people and politics of Virginia. It has come to be an important event in the political life of the Commonwealth and is known as ‘The Spring Rite of Virginia Politics!” Shad Planking serves as the primary fundraiser for the Wakefield Ruritan Club, a community service organization.

Even though Virginians have already headed to the polls to cast ballots in the Presidential primary earlier this month, where real estate mogul Donald Trump and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton levied compelling wins in the state, Shad Planking organizers plan to host a Presidential Straw Poll during the April 22 event, where your ticket will grant you one vote in the poll.

“The Shad Planking Presidential Straw Poll holds the special distinction of being bipartisan,” organizers remarked. “Anyone who is still officially in the race, from any party, will be on the ballot.”

While many people know the Shad Planking for it’s legendary food, conversation, and sea of political signs along the pathways around the event grounds, the speakers at the event are just as well-known, essentially a roster of influential Virginia political figures.

In recent years, notable speakers have included Senator, and former Governor George Allen; Gov. Terry McAuliffe as a candidate for the office; Tim Kaine; and, Sen. John Warner. Other legendary figures in Virginia politics who have been featured speakers include Harry Byrd, Senior and Junior, Mills Godwin, Doug Wilder, Gerald Baliles, and Mary Sue Terry.

The 68th Annual Shad Planking, sponsored by the Wakefield Ruritan Club, is being held on the grounds of the Wakefield Sportsman’s Club at 12205 Brittles Mill Road, four miles west of Wakefield, beginning at 12 p.m. on Friday April 22. Tickets are $25 in advance and $30 at the gate and can be bought online at and through the mail.

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