Tons of fish and dozens of candidates on deck for Friday's Clyburn Fish Fry in Columbia

Go if only to see Clyburn walk in to "Old Town Road"


Then-Sen. Barack Obama speaks at the 2007 Clyburn Fish Fry in Columbia, S.C. - C-SPAN
  • C-SPAN
  • Then-Sen. Barack Obama speaks at the 2007 Clyburn Fish Fry in Columbia, S.C.
Friday night in Columbia, Congressman Jim Clyburn hosts his annual "world famous" fish fry, an all-but-required stop for prospective Democratic 2020 candidates out for S.C. primary votes. Nearly two dozen candidates are slated to attend, 22 to be exact — pretty much any Democrat you've heard mention possibly running for president.

Friday's event is free and open to the public at the EdVenture Children's Museum at 211 Gervais St. in Columbia. The menu includes: Fish, bread, hot sauce, and booze (yep, free too.) Gates open at 7:30 p.m. (More info on Clyburn's website.)

The Clyburn Fish Fry is something of a political relic, an evening bunting-and-babies type affair where candidates running for office line up for their chance on the stump in front of the party faithful. Clyburn's 6th Congressional District area includes parts of Charleston, snaking its way up to also include parts of Columbia.

Held each year on the weekend of the state Democratic Party's convention, the event is at its biggest and most energetic before statewide elections and presidential primaries. And since the 2020 Democratic presidential primary is probably the biggest and most crowded in a generation, this year's Fish Fry will be quite a spectacle. At least two formal walk-throughs for the party have been conducted as two dozen candidates and their security details prepare to descend on Columbia. Clyburn may even walk up to "Old Town Road," the early-summer banger by rapper Lil Nas X.

Annual party events are usually times for unity and party platform-planning for the year ahead, but these candidates will need to stand out from their peers, so look for a few barbs to be thrown, even if it's just on wonky policy white paper specifics.

After Friday's fish fry, S.C. Democrats will hold their annual convention on Saturday where many of the same candidates are slated to speak. Initial plans to allow MSNBC to have the exclusive on live TV coverage from the event, blocking out even C-SPAN and ETV, fizzled on Wednesday after pressure from other news outlets. ETV will be allowed to stream the proceedings live, the party has said.

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