Last Monday, I drove down to the small city of Buena Vista, Virginia, for the traditional kick-off to the political season in the Commonwealth: the Buena Vista Labor Day Parade.
This was my first visit to Buena Vista, although I had often read about the parade and appearances there by candidates for public office. There was a real festival atmosphere, with food and beverage vendors, carnival-style games, Civil War re-enactors, and beauty queens.
During the political forum that followed the parade, former Governor Jim Gilmore said that this was his "third or fourth" time to attend the Buena Vista Labor Day festivities. I found that impressive, until former Governor Mark Warner added, snarkily, that this was his "eighteenth" visit -- a line intended to elicit cheers from a crowd that was heavily salted with Warner-for-Senate groupies.
This year, besides Gilmore and Warner, who are both seeking the open U.S. Senate seat in Virginia, there were several other candidates for high office: fellow Senate candidate Bill Redpath, the nominee of the Libertarian Party; Sixth District Congressman Bob Goodlatte and his opponent, Sam Rasoul (who described himself as the youngest candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives this year); state Senator Creigh Deeds and Delegate Brian Moran, who are competing for the Democratic nomination for governor in 2009; and state Senator Ken Cuccinelli and former U.S. Attorney John Brownlee, who are seeking the GOP nomination for state Attorney General next year.
The 2009 candidates were limited to shaking hands with constituents and smiling silently on the podium. The 2008 candidates all had an opportunity to speak for up to five minutes to a rather boisterous crowd.
I captured all the speeches on video, and I would have posted them here on the evening of Labor Day, but I encountered software problems that took several days of trial-and-error to solve. Once I overcame those difficulties, I posted the videos to YouTube and made them available for posting here, as well.
First, Tara Wheeler, who is Miss Virginia 2008, led the assembly in the National Anthem:
Miss Virginia was followed by the two older-party candidates for U.S. Senate, starting with Jim Gilmore, the Republican nominee:
Gilmore came out swinging against his principal opponent, Mark Warner, and Warner gave back with the same intensity:
For some strange reason, the forum organizers skipped over the other Senate candidate on the dais, Libertarian Bill Redpath, so that he ended up speaking at the end of the line. Since it's logical that the three Senate candidates speak sequentially, I will put Redpath's remarks here. (There are also a couple of scenes in this video from prior to the forum, with Redpath chatting with Governor Gilmore and with him being interviewed by WDBJ-TV from Roanoke.)
Congressman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA6) includes Buena Vista residents among his constituents. His remarks focused on the good things he has done for the district and this particular neighborhood:
Goodlatte was followed by his opponent in this year's congressional race, Sam Rasoul, who was greeted by cheers:
The final speaker (before Bill Redpath) was Delegate Ben Cline (R-HD24), who is not a candidate this year but who does represent the people of Buena Vista:
Steven Latimer and I got a late start leaving from Charlottesville, so we missed most of the parade. Still, I was able to get some atmospheric shots, including a line-up of emergency vehicles (what would happen if there was a major fire across town?) and Shriners on motor scooters.
(Some of the still photos included in that video were taken by Steven.)
My general impression of Buena Vista might be summed up by what I said as we were walking along the parade route: "I feel like I just stepped into a John Mellencamp song."
Nonetheless, I hope to return next year for the parade, the festivities, and the speechifying.
By the way, the mainstream media had extensive coverage of the Labor Day parade. There were articles in The Washington Post, Daily Press, Staunton News Leader, Roanoke Times, Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star, Waynesboro News-Virginian, Virginian-Pilot, and distributed by the Associated Press. TV stations that covered the event included NBC29 (WVIR-TV) in Charlottesville, ABC13 (WSET-TV) in Lynchburg, WSLS-TV in Roanoke, and WHSV-TV in Harrisonburg. WDBJ7 in Roanoke included an interview with Bill Redpath as well as clips of Warner, Gilmore, Deeds, and others.