By: Terry Harris | Email: Click Here
Posted: May 23, 2018 | 2:35 p.m.
WAKEFIELD – One of the traditional rites of spring in Wakefield underwent a rejuvenation on April 21, when the Shad Planking became The BASH. (Barbecue and Shad Homecoming.) That’s right, they added barbecue and became more of a family affair, according to Buster Haywood, Chairman of this year’s big Ruritan Spring Fundraising event. And the result was a banquet for the senses with the sounds of great music and laughter, sights of adults mingling underneath the trees while children played, the smell of smoke from the fires that cooked the shad, the taste of the bbq and fish, and the feel of connecting with neighbors and new friends through eating, dancing, and conversing together.
“The Shad Planking has been a political event that has served a political purpose and been part of the Virginia landscape for 50 plus years, and the political people are still welcome,” Haywood explained. “But situations have changed, and the event was not profitable for the purpose which the Ruritans serve – which is community, children, baseball, fire departments, rescue squads. The money wasn’t there. And it’s a shame, but we had to come up with a different avenue to take care of these things, and this is for Ruritans so we decided to bring it back to the community – to the people it serves. But we didn’t want to lose our heritage of the shad and the history that we have here.”
Sussex County Sheriff Ernest Giles and his deputies were on hand sharing conversations and smiles as they kept an eye out for everyone’s safety.
Haywood said that he volunteered to take on a new direction, because the older members had been doing a great job, but the club just knew that they had to do something different.
“So this year we did the barbecue,” he said, “but we included the shad as a part of history. So you bought a ticket and you didn’t have to buy anything else. When you were in, it was a full event. You got a complete meal, music, children’s entertainment, kids under 10 get in free. We brought it back to the family to have a good time – somewhere to go together.”
Ed Castle, Serving Chairman, declared it to be an excellent day of mixing and mingling, with everybody having a good time, and attributed part of the success to attention to detail, right down to hot dogs for the kids.
“And all the money we make goes back into our community,” he added. “We help the fire department, rescue squad, little league baseball – that’s the sort of place money goes when we raise funds on a day like today.”
Both Castle and Haywood emphasized that lots of great sponsors as well as time volunteered by members made all the difference. He also stressed the importance of the historical aspect of the event.
Ell-O-Ell kept the crowd hopping!
“We just think this BASH is going to build,” Haywood said. “The event used to serve 4,000 people. Shad Planking’s been on the Today show! We know we’ll never get back to the heyday of thousands, and that’s ok. But we’d like to see it at 750 as a target. And in the future, I think we’re going to hit it with the people realizing that the kids had a good time, everybody had a good meal, and they were even buying barbecue to take home. And, of course, the shad cooked over an open fire and served on planks – that’s the history.”
“The Wakefield Ruritan Club has its own place in history,” he added. “We’re the second oldest Ruritan club IN Ruritan. There’s a history here. This is major. Wakefield has a big footprint, and what an impact this little community has on the whole state – we’re very proud of it.”
Looking around as the day was coming to a close, Haywood said, “The band’s been good – Ell-O-Ell – most of them local boys here to help support the Ruritans. The crowd’s hung around, the bouncy house was a success, kids have been good, and the fire department even did an extrication to show what they do for people every day. It’s just phenomenal, and we think we can build on that each and every year – get this event back. And we’re going to include the other fire departments, for example, that don’t have Ruritans in their area. To me it’s serious. This is about as important as it gets. The Fire Department’s been to my house before. I know what it’s like. They take care of us each and every day. Sometimes it’s nice to acknowledge that.”