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Cornhole in the pawpaw patch

The General Assembly may have switched hands from the Republicans to the Democrats last month, but one thing remains the same: There are a bunch of bills trying to establish the “official state” fill-in-the-blank.

In Virginia Code §1-510, you will find the commonwealth’s list of official state emblems and designations. The state bird, the cardinal, was one of the first, adopted in 1950. There are presently 37 entries, including an official television series, “Song of the Mountains,” a PBS music show. Apparently “The Waltons,” a popular and long-running show about a depression-era family in rural Virginia, wasn’t good enough to push aside a taped-concert program.

There’s also an official rock, Nelsonite, an igneous stone named for Nelson County. Who was from Nelson County? The late Earl Hamner Jr., that’s who. He used his experiences growing up in Nelson County to create “The Waltons.” At least John-Boy can say, “I got a rock!”

This year’s bills include two measures to name an “official firearm” in Virginia, either a “Springfield Model 1855 Rifle-Musket” or a “Virginia long rifle.” In a session dominated by gun control issues, maybe it wasn’t quite the time to name an official gun for Virginians. Those bills both were punted until next year.

Susan Greenbaum’s lovely ballad, “Virginia, the Home of My Heart,” was in the running for official folk

song, but sadly, that proposal too was carried over until 2021.

Does Virginia need an official “tailgate game?” One delegate thought so…and he chose cornhole, the beanbag-tossing game. The cornhole lobby needs to do better work next time, if there is a next time. This bill wasn’t just carried over, it was flat-out stricken from the docket on a 19-2 committee vote. That’s got to hurt as much as getting nailed by a beanbag thrown too hard and too high.

Should there be limits on constituent services? A delegate put in a bill at the request of a scouting group in her district to designate the “pawpaw fruit” as the official Virginia fruit.

Really? This is a state that prides itself on apples. People up in Winchester have been celebrating the “Apple Blossom Festival” — and therefore apples themselves — since the 1920s.

The Virginia wine industry has taken off. The Norton grape, America’s oldest native grape, was first cultivated in Richmond about Thomas Jefferson’s time. It makes a bold deep-colored wine.

Those are just two options for a real official fruit for Virginia. The pawpaw? One of its nicknames is “hillbilly mango.” Say no more.

The pawpaw bill was continued until next year with a polite “thank you for thinking of us.”  That’s appropriate. These scouts are kids, after all – let’s channel their enthusiasm somewhere besides the pawpaw patch.

— Paul Fletcher