In the summer of 1880, the Mayfield Monitor published this notice: “There will be a barn dance, picnic, and gander pulling at Fancy Farm.”
In the early years, the St. Jerome parish members made churned ice cream, cooked fresh vegetables from their gardens, fried freshly killed chickens, and pit cooked mutton and goats for 24 hours until fork tender. There was a lemonade stand and peach and strawberry soda pop drinks.
Bingo was a highlight of the picnic. One year, Graves County Attorney Farland Robbins refused to allow bingo to be played. When the next election came around, Mr. Robbins was defeated. He remarked in true Fancy Farm political tradition, “I didn’t get beat; I got bingoed.”
Over the years, there have been outstanding political speakers: Vice President Alben Barkley and U.S. Sen. John Sherman Cooper; U.S. Congressman Frank Stubblefield; Governors “Happy” Chandler, Wendell Ford, Martha Layne Collins and controversial Alabama Gov. George Wallace, a 1975 presidential candidate. (Thanks to “The Annual Picnic at Fancy Farm” by Mrs. Robert L. Spalding)
This past first Saturday in August and the 139th Fancy Farm Picnic, a U.S. senator, a U.S. representative, a governor and state office holders and all Democratic state candidates showed up at the 1985 Guinness Book of World Records’ “World’s Largest Picnic.”
Berry Craig, retired professor and my mentor of all things Democrat in western Kentucky history and newly named Graves County Democrat of the Year, advised me, a first-timer, to start with pulled pork BBQ with homemade BBQ sauce and a Sun Drop soda pop.
Walking the perimeter of the Pavilion, I saw all kinds of posters, signs, and outfits commemorating their favorite party, candidate and/or policy idea. It was truly a showcase of our U.S. Constitution’s FIRST Amendment. Signs featured phrases such as, “Trump is Racist – Mitch McConnell is his Enabler”, “Matt Bevin – wants more security for his twitter than our children, thoughts and prayers in November”, “Just say Nyet to Moscow Mitch”, and “KY’s Nit Wit - Bevin”. And there was a Lone Cowboy standing behind the stage wearing a Donald Trump sport coat.
There were many more Democrats carrying signs, dressed in their colors, and engaging with the speakers than Republicans, who seemed rather subdued.
Our Founders would have been proud of the civilized crowd that gathered on Saturday afternoon to cheer, boo, rant and chant for or against the candidates. After all, that has been the draw for this picnic since Governor “Happy” Chandler’s day. In the 1990s, Mitch McConnell took it to a new level by busing in raucous crowds to cheer for him and drown out his opponents.
Paybacks can be tough.
The most raucous moment of Saturday’s political speeches occurred when a frail Mitch McConnell tried to give his speech. “Moscow Mitch,” “Moscow Mitch,” “Liar, “Liar,” resonated so loudly that anything he said was drowned out.
“Moscow Mitch” seemed like a “shell of himself.”
The KY 120 teacher’s group, the Kentucky Education Association, the Jefferson County Teachers Association, and the Kentucky Democratic Party overwhelmed the pavilion. Many of them had on the red T-shirts that said, “NYET to Moscow Mitch” which had raised over $300,000 by Saturday morning.
The race for governor has “woke” public employees including teachers, police officers, fire fighters and public city and county employees because Matt Bevin and Republicans have taken away pension security.
Andy Beshear is relying on public employees and educator’s support. On Saturday he called teachers “amazing and selfless.”
Beshear’s running mate, Jacqueline Coleman, a teacher, “electrified the crowd with her no-holds-barred speech.”
She rattled off her pet names for the “failed” Charter Schools Bevin has been pushing:
• Jenean Hampton, Bevin’s African-American former running mate, Charter for How to Survive a Horrible Boss,
• Ralph Alvarado, Bevin’s current running mate, School for Doctors against Medicine
• Matt Bevin School for the Napoleonic Complex.
Lastly and sadly, our Republican governor, Republican senators and Republican congressman have some explaining to do. Why have they stonewalled and deferred to the NRA lobby on dealing with mass shootings? Now El Paso and Dayton?
But thanks, Fancy Farm! You have energized Democrats and provided momentum for this Fall.
Marshall Ward is a Murray resident who is a member of the Democratic Party. He may be reached at email@example.com.