Fancy Farm

Fancy Farm 2015

20 hours ago
Emil Moffatt

For some in Western Kentucky, the Fancy Farm Picnic is about chopped mutton and pork, bingo and music. But for the rest of the state it’s that weekend in August when politicians roll up their shirt sleeves and yell into a sea of cheers and boos.  This year’s Fancy Farm continued that tradition—after getting over one plea for civility.

The annual Fancy Farm picnic at St. Jerome's Parish is...a little bit different from the rest of the events most politicians attend during a campaign.

These days, in an increasingly tweeted, snapped and streamed world, politicians prefer to deliver their messages in carefully-scripted commercials or well-rehearsed sound bites for the press.
But Fancy Farm is noisy. Chaotic. Rude. The crowd shouts over the candidates.
This year, Republican candidate for governor Matt Bevin attempted to diffuse the bedlam by leading the crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance

WKYU PBS

U.S. Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell says he will be at the Fancy Farm picnic next month.

Kentucky’s senior senator talked about the event during a stop in Bullitt County Monday.

McConnell said he plans to attend---and take part---in Kentucky’s biggest political event of the year.

"I'm looking forward to being there," McConnell commented.

Other years, he’s missed it, but McConnell explained that’s only when there isn’t a big state race in play that year.  This year, Republican Matt Bevin and Democrat Jack Conway are squaring off for the Governor’s office. So, McConnell says he will be making a speech at the picnic.

McConnell—who is one of the most prominent Republicans in the state and country—says he will also help craft the message for other members of his party making a speech that day.

"We are talking to other people that are participating and hope to make it interesting," McConnell added.

U.S. Senator Rand Paul recently announced he won’t attend Fancy Farm and will be campaigning for president in New Hampshire instead.

The much-anticipated 134th Fancy Farm Picnic has come and gone, setting an attendance record in the process, according to organizers. But while the caustic stump speeches get national media attention, many forget its original purpose: raising funds for St. Jerome Catholic Church.

The Sounds (and Sights) of Fancy Farm 2014

Aug 3, 2014
Emil Moffatt

The first weekend in August in western Kentucky means only one thing: Fancy Farm. The small town suddenly transforms into the epicenter of the Kentucky political universe.

And to keep a tradition going for 134 years, it takes some pretty committed volunteers.

“Each family in the church has a responsibility and this family has taken care of the hamburgers and hot dogs for decades,” said Will Hayden, who was working the grill Saturday morning.

Hayden and Brad Page of Fancy Farm spoke to us as they were cooling down after a long morning and afternoon tending to a hot grill. Page says they normally start grilling between 7:00 and 7:30 in the morning. Fancy Farm has been a part of their lives as long as they can remember.

“Oh, I’m 45, so 42 [Fancy Farms] that I know of,” said Hayden.

Page also says he started volunteering as a child.

“It’s been handed down generation to generation.  I’ve got my kids, and his kids,”  said Page pointing to Hayden. “Hopefully they’ll get in there and get at it.”

Joseph Lord, Kentucky Public Radio

Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer officially announced his bid for governor at the 134th annual Fancy Farm political picnic, becoming the third candidate to do so in the 2015 race and setting the stage for a Republican primary battle against a former Louisville Metro councilman in the process.

"It's been my dream come true to be your commissioner of agriculture. And I view the people of Western Kentucky as our family. So T.J. and I have chosen this time, and this place, to say to all of you, I will be a candidate for governor in 2015," Comer said.

The anticipated announcement now pits Comer, a Republican who succeeded Richie Farmer in 2012, against Hal Heiner, a Republican who narrowly lost to Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer in a 2010 election.

Comer says he’s yet to select a running mate, but will do so once he officially files his candidacy papers on Sept. 9.

The annual Fancy Farm picnic in Kentucky is the place to see and be seen for political candidates. The event has drawn many national figures in its 80-year history, including Al Gore and George Wallace. But the picnic has a reputation for being a raucous event.

As Phillip Bailey of Here & Now contributing station WFPL reports, organizers are trying to tamp down what they call “the scream fest,” as the event promises to attract a bigger audience then ever.

It’s Fancy Farm, 2011. Gatewood Galbraith, clad in his trademark fedora, takes the stage. 

“Thank you very much folks," he tells the applauding crowd. "Gatewood Galbraith here. First of all, I’m gonna go away from my regular speech for just a second and tell you Gov. Beshear, that was the worst darn speech I ever heard anybody give!”

The audience cheers.

Dubbed by many Kentucky political observers as one of the best stump speakers in recent history, Galbraith’s populist oratory style and steely resolve was a perfect match for the event.

Organizers expect a larger than usual crowd at this weekend's Fancy Farm Picnic in Graves County. The 134 year-old event has evolved from old-timey political stump speeches to a shout-fest as spectators try to overpower the speaker.

In 1975 the Fancy Farm Picnic was a little more refined. In fact, it was quiet enough to hear a flash bulb pop during then-Presidential Candidate George Wallace’s speech. Wallace survived an assassination attempt in 1972 that left him paralyzed below the waist.

The Fancy Farm Picnic’s political chair Mark Wilson says Democrats and Republicans offered positive feedback following a conference call to encourage a more civil atmosphere at this year's picnic.

On the road to this weekend's Fancy Farm political picnic, there are detours.

One is the Dainty contest, a unique annual sports event in Louisville’s Schnitzelburg neighborhood that draws local and statewide politicians.

In the run up to Fancy Farm, the Dainty has served as a kind of roadside attraction. Candidates rub elbows with prospective voters in an attempt to energize the base in one of Kentucky's most solidly working-class Democratic strongholds.

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