SMITHLAND, Ky. — On my trip to western Kentucky, it was nice to get off the highway and take state road 453 north to Smithland. Passing a yard piled high with fresh watermelon and cantaloupe, and a field of grazing goats, the drive took me through the small town and ended at the confluence of the Ohio and Cumberland Rivers.
It’s a beautiful Kentucky landmark.
During the Civil War, Smithland played an important role because of its location. Riverboat pilots were picked up here to take boats up the Cumberland to Clarksville and Nashville, Tenn. That made it an important center for commercial trade, according to the historical marker that overlooks the rivers. In 1864, Smithland also was a recruiting post for the Union Army, especially for African-American troops, and a training camp for new soldiers heading south.
These days, though, Smithland is stop on the long road to Fancy Farm as Alison Lundergan Grimes brought her U.S. Senate campaign bus to town on Thursday.
She started the day in Morganfield, attended a meet and greet at the Webster County Courthouse in Dixon, grabbed lunch at Just-A-Burg’r in Marion, and arrived in Smithland by mid-afternoon.
At Smiley’s Levee Cafe, Livingston County Democratic Party Chair Don Mitchell fired up the gathering with his introduction of the Kentucky Secretary of State. The young candidate launched into a litany of comments attacking her opponent, Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell. Grimes called the Senate minority leader’s trip to Saturday’s Fancy Farm picnic “the Mitch McConnell farewell tour.”
Later in the day, the bus took Grimes and her entourage to the McCracken County Alben Barkley Dinner, named for the Kentucky native who served as U.S. Senator and Harry Truman’s Vice President. The rally also brought state Democratic office holders Attorney General Jack Conway, an announced 2015 gubernatorial candidate, Treasurer Todd Hollenbach, and Auditor Adam Edelen to the packed hall.
Grimes hit her main themes and asked the gathering if “they were ready for a new face of leadership” in Washington. She’ll have another day of campaign events before her face-to-face confrontation with Sen. McConnell at Fancy Farm. In fact the last meeting of the two candidates took place a year ago on the stage of the St. Jerome Catholic Church picnic.
Everybody has something to say about the U.S. Senate race in Kentucky. Members of the national and international press are expected at the gathering on Saturday along with what organizers think may be one of the biggest crowds in the 135 year history of the event.
U.S. Sen. Rand Paul recently told me that he believes the race is attracting so much interest outside of Kentucky because of its national implications.
KET’s broadcast coverage of Fancy Farm begins tonight at 8 as Comment on Kentucky airs from the picnic grounds with host Bill Bryant along with Ronnie Ellis, Joe Gerth, and Sam Youngman.
Then Renee Shaw and I will bring you all the candidate speeches on Saturday. Our broadcast begins at 2:30 p.m. on KET, or you can watch us online at KET.org/live.