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Advertise on the Tentacle

July 25, 2012

“Nothing could be finer” than the Tawes Clambake

Kevin E. Dayhoff

Last Wednesday was the quintessential Southern Gothic experience at the 36th annual J. Millard Tawes Crab and Clam Bake in Maryland’s “Capital for The Say,” Somers Cove Marina, in Crisfield, Somerset County.


The plot is always more complicated at the event than meets the eye. This year’s chapter on the annual political and culinary ritual for the not-so-faint-at-heart once again featured a triple-digit heat index, hot seafood on a hot, paved asphalt parking lot, plenty of political hot air and layer upon layer of political intrigue.


Not to be overlooked, the event is a fiscal shot in the arm for the lower Eastern Shore at a time when, according to coverage by Richard Cross in his blog: “31,000 high income citizens disaffected by Governor [Martin] O’Malley’s tax and spend policies (have) fled the state between 2007 and 2010, taking $1.7 billion in lost tax revenue with them.” “Marylanders have moved in droves to Virginia” – says a Washington Times article about a recent study by Change Maryland.


According to Emily Lampa at WMDT, the “36th Annual Tawes Crab & Clam Bake:” “Event officials tell us tickets alone bring in about 240 thousand dollars. Minus expenses, it pumps roughly 100 thousand dollars into the Crisfield Chamber of Commerce…”


As you approach the fabled Crisfield harbor and absorb the super-heated Chesapeake Bay’s salted air, you are tempted to break into singing, “Tradition” from “Fiddler on the Roof.”


You know the story… Tevye, a poor milkman, representing “Everyman” – in Maryland: “Eating crabs in one-hundred degree heat on a hot pavement. Sounds crazy, no? But in our little village of Crisfield, in Czarist hegemonic Maryland, you might say every one of us is a seafood lover on a hot pavement, trying to scratch out a pleasant, simple tune without breaking his neck.


“It isn't easy. You may ask, why do we stay ... We stay because Maryland is our home... Why do we go every year? That I can tell you in one word... Tradition…tradition, tradition…”


“Because of our traditions, we've kept our balance for many, many years. Here in Maryland we have rules and bureaucracy for everything... how to eat, how to sleep, how to wear clothes, even, how to pay excessive taxes…”


If you were not able to attend this year’s Tawes event, my colleague, Michael Swartz has an excellent set of well-captioned photographs on his web site, “Monoblogue,” 36th Annual Tawes Crab and Clam Bake in pictures and text.


Tawes, you see, is a traditional political-family reunion with friends, with archetypical Eastern Shore Maryland scenery, and great food; all built upon the widely perceived reputation that attendance on the marina parking lot for Maryland politicians on the third Wednesday in July, every year, is well…mandatory.


Among the many familiar faces at this year’s event were my longstanding friends Sen. Jim Mathias (R., Somerset/Wicomico/Worcester), Del. Jay Jacobs (R., Caroline/Cecil/ Kent/Queen Anne’s). I served with both in the Maryland Municipal League many years ago.


It was also good to see Del. Norm Conway (D., Wicomico/Worcester), the current chair of the House Appropriations Committee, and Del. Kelly Schulz (R., Frederick 4th). I had the pleasure of walking into the marina with Sen. Nancy Jacobs (R., Cecil and Harford).


Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot and Howard County Executive Ken Ulman visited to rub elbows with those in attendance – but with little, if no, overt electioneering.


My good friend, Harford County Executive David Craig; and the current chair, and founder of Change Maryland, Larry Hogan, who had served in the administration of former Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr.; seemed to enjoy socializing with old friends and colleagues.


Messrs. Craig and Hogan both are expected to throw their hats in the ring for the 2014 Maryland gubernatorial contest. And both would benefit from additional name recognition across the state; so the Tawes event is an important retail campaign utility.


Although in the wake of the recent kerfuffle over the Maryland tax refugees, it would appear that Governor O’Malley is committed to making Mr. Hogan a household name across Maryland.


And, of course, no Tawes event would be complete without my old friend, former Maryland Gov. Marvin Mandel. In a conversation several years ago, Governor Mandel, now 92, reminisced that he was Speaker of the House when Mr. Tawes was governor. “We were really good friends…


“I was here for the first (Tawes Clam Bake) 32 years ago and I’ve been coming ever since,” he said.”


The event has grown to be the best place to be in order to gauge what is on the minds of citizens, elaborated Governor Mandel, who had earlier remarked about how important it is to make friends with other elected officials and use events such as the Tawes event to maintain those friendships.


Our own Frederick County commissioner – and fellow columnist Blaine Young – had a commanding presence. There was a steady line of dignitaries and notable personalities who stopped by to pay their respects and spend time with him, including fellow photographer and writer Tim Wesolek – from WHAG-TV, Carroll County Commissioner Richard Rothschild, Washington County Commissioner Jeff Cline, and former Del. Paul Stull, among many.


This year, much of the conversation over heaping portions of crabs, clams, fish, corn on the cob, and watermelon was the 2014 governor’s race. Also on the talk-menu were many of the current challenges of the day, same sex marriage, the Change Maryland tax refugee study, and, oh yea, gambling, gambling, and more gambling.


My favorite part of the day, in addition to getting to spend the entire day on an adventure with my wife, was the heaping portions of all kinds of food. I also enjoyed getting to see so many great friends from both sides of the aisle, at a quintessentially traditional summer event that is totally unique to the Maryland of yesteryear.


. . . . .I’m just saying... Tradition…tradition, tradition…


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