Fancy Farm is a close-knit hamlet tucked into the western portion of the state known as the Jackson Purchase. The picnic that began there in the late 1800s as a homecoming celebration and fundraiser for Saint Jerome Church assumed another identity when Democrat A.B. “Happy” Chandler became the first politician to attend when he ran for lieutenant governor in 1931. (He won that race, and went on to win two terms as governor and one term as a U.S. senator.)
Soon the nostalgia of old-fashioned political speaking with pluck and spunk became as big a draw as the barbeque, fresh vegetables, and bingo. It was a mostly one-party event until the 1980s when the Republican revolution upended the Democratic Rock of Gibraltar that was western Kentucky.
An updated stage reminiscent of a front porch will brim with current statewide office-holders and contenders hoping to make the best of their limited speaking time to wow a crowd of rambunctious spectators ready to pounce on a flubbed line or attempt to throw the speakers of their game with crass heckles and jeers.
Lobbyist Bob Babbage is no stranger to Fancy Farm, having taken the stage there during his bids for statewide office more than 20 years ago. The former Kentucky Auditor and Secretary of State says the annual affair should be on the bucket list of all political wonks. It’s an experience unique to Kentucky and America, where faith, family, food, and carnival-style politicking collide. Here’s Babbage and another former Secretary of State, Trey Grayson, outlining the stakes.
You can forgo the long drive, elbow-to-elbow crowds, and outdoor elements by watching KET’s wall-to-wall coverage of the political speeches, starting Saturday at 2:30 p.m. Bill Goodman and I will be joined by political analysts to provide exclusive, in-depth coverage. If you can’t watch us on TV, check out our video stream at KET.org/live.
And you can follow me on Twitter (@ReneeKET) for updates throughout the weekend.