Jefferson County Democrats were proud to have hosted Demstock 23, on August 11-12, 2023, at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds, in Brookville, PA. Close to 20 JeffDems volunteered their time to “work” the front gate and other aspects of the event, as well as getting lots of time to enjoy the event.
In just five short years, Demstock has become one of the largest annual gatherings of Rural Democrats, from around the state. This year’s event attracted close to 400 attendees, for one or two days of Democratic camaraderie, good food, speakers, entertainment, advocacy groups, and much more, in a relaxed atmosphere.
Friday night featured “Cash for Candidates” and a Political Trivia event. Close to 100 Democrats attended as we heard from candidates from various counties. The Demstock Committee awarded $500 checks to six of these candidates, to help with their campaign expenses, and also awarded $150 consolation checks to four others who applied and participated in Cash for Candidates.
Saturday started with the 8am Commissioners’ Breakfast, with food purchased and prepared by County Commissioners or Commissioner Candidates from several counties. By 10am, the Advocacy Hall opened, where numerous advocacy groups and vendors were set up to meet & greet Demstock attendees. Also in the Advocacy Group Hall was a basket auction, featuring baskets donated from attending counties. Additionally, there was a Cookie Sale, and a Demstock T-Shirt Sale. The Advocacy Hall also featured a “Soap Box” of enthusiastic speakers, many of whom are 2024 candidates. About 200 attendees gathered to cheer the speakers.
One of the missions of Demstock is to “give back” to the local area, so in that spirit, this year there were two successful initiatives. Over 600 new pairs of socks were collected and donation to Community Action of Jefferson County, for use in their various shelters around the county. Also, we were pleased to partner with the Jefferson County Historical Society (JCHS), who hosted tours of the Songer Family Exhibit Hall, featuring historical artifacts of Jefferson County, many of which were 100 – 200 years old. Demstock attendees enjoyed touring the Songer Exhibit, and at the end of the day, the Demstock Committee donated a $500 check to the JCHS.
On the entertainment front, some great music played throughout the afternoon, featuring multi-talented, 17-year-old performer, Alex Shumaker from Punxsutawney, followed by the Potter County tandem of Larry Herbstritt & Tom Shaffer, with popular tunes from the 60s & 70s. After dinner, a DJ provided more entertainment, although the evening thunderstorms caused many folks to leave early.
Perhaps the high point of Demstock was the 5pm buffet dinner, attended by over 300 people, and featuring major inspirational speakers throughout and after the meal. M.C. Phil Heasley (Demstock Committee Chair) and Jefferson County Chair, John Huot, offered some opening remarks and handled introductions, starting with Jefferson County Commissioner, Jeff Pisarcik, who welcomed the attendees and thanked everyone for coming. Speakers included State Committee Chairperson, Sharif Street; State Representative Malcolm Kenyatta; US Senator “Big” John Fetterman; PA Judicial Candidates Dan McCaffery (Supreme Court), Timika Lane (Superior Court), and Matt Wolf (Commonwealth Court). Unfortunately, Senator Bob Casey was unable to attend due to his mom’s passing, and Jill Beck (Superior Court Candidate) was ill and could not attend. We also heard from Joe Shepherd, Founder of United Rural Democratics, who awarded $250 checks to 13 Rural PA Counties, to help with their promotional efforts for their respective Democratic Candidates.
All-in-all, Demstock 23 was a huge success, as many new friendships formed with like-minded rural Democrats. Demstock 24 is tentatively scheduled for late August, 2024, in Butler County. Watch for more info on that in the coming months.