The Washington Post

Shad Planking: Va. leaders eat fish, talk politics

In 2009, then-candidates for governor Bob McDonnell, Terry McAuliffe and Brian Moran talk at the Shad Planking. (By Tracy A. Woodward/The Washington Post)

The confab, which dates from the 1930s, was once a key stop for any candidate with dreams of higher office in Virginia, but has diminished in importance in recent years. Nevertheless, it still has the power to draws some big names to Wakefield, in southern Virginia.

Photos: Shad Planking through the years

In addition to McDonnell, this year’s attendees will include Sen. Mark Warner (D) and Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling (R). McDonnell will deliver the keynote speech at the event, which begins at 2:30 p.m. About 1,000 people are expected to attend.

So, what is a shad planking?

The Post’s Anita Kumar has a good explainer, but in short a group of friends gathered to celebrate the annual running of the shad on the James River in the early 1930s. They planked the fish in the tradition of Virginia’s Native Americans and talked politics. The event grew and was taken over by the Wakefield Ruritan Club in 1949.

Generations of Virginia politicians have attended including Harry Bird, John Warner and Mary Sue Terry.

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