FANCY FARM – Kentucky politics should mark their calendars to be in Graves County on Aug. 7, as political speaking will be returning to the Fancy Farm Picnic.
“We are absolutely thrilled to welcome everyone back as the Fancy Farm tradition, dating all the way back to 1880, continues,” said Steven Elder, the picnic’s chairman.
Precautions due to COVID-19 caused a scale-backed version of the 2020 picnic with no speakers or games. A Fancy Farm native, Elder emphasized that the well-known picnic has always been a fundraiser for the St. Jerome’s Catholic Church and school.
“The day emphasizes our faith, patriotism, hospitality and optimism,” Elder added.
Elder also announced that Bob Babbage of Lexington will be the emcee for the political speaking. Babbage was formerly Kentucky’s secretary of state and state auditor, and is now a leading lobbyist here and in Washington D.C. with Babbage Cofounder.
“We love Fancy Farm, so I am sure humbled and honored,” Babbage said. “There’s nothing quite like this anywhere. It’s a Kentucky political family reunion with a whole lot of would-be cousins showing up to check a box on their political bucket list.”
Babbage is the grandson of Keen Johnson, Kentucky’s governor during 1939-43, who was born in the Fancy Farm region in 1896. Governor Johnson spoke at Fancy Farm back in his era.
It was Gov. A.B. “Happy” Chandler who popularized the political stump speaking during the 1930s. This ultimately led to Fancy Farm becoming a required pilgrimage for candidates along with political followers from everywhere.
U.S. Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell and local Congress member James Comer have made remarks year after year, as has Gov. Andy Beshear and earlier his father, former Gov. Steve Beshear.
Always held on the first Saturday in August, the Guinness Book of World Records dubbed it the “World’s Largest Picnic” for the consumption of 15,000 pounds of mutton at the 1982 event. Al Gore of Tennessee spoke in 1992 while running for vice president on the Democratic ticket with Bill Clinton.
“There is much to enjoy at Fancy Farm, but the political speaking is a big draw, a show carried live on KET,” Elder said. “Our rules of debate assure a fair forum for top public leaders with a strong helping of humor and maybe a dash of spirited oratory.
“You can count on our usual Bingo out in the fresh, country air with the scent of barbecue, and rely on our friends, farmers and neighbors to prepare and serve the finest picnic one can find.
“We take great pride and pleasure in the chance to welcome several thousand guests to our special grounds and tradition, all to benefit St. Jerome’s parish.”
Elder takes the helm from local businessman Mark Wilson, who headed the event for 15 years and is still serving as a picnic advisor and volunteer.