The Fancy Farm Picnic takes place at St. Jerome’s Church in the small Graves County community of Fancy Farm in far western Kentucky as it has since 1880, when the congregation began serving a lot of barbeque as a church fundraiser.
Among those who have confirmed their appearances are the area’s General Assembly members, Sen. Jason Howell, R-Murray, and Rep. Richard Heath, R-Mayfield. First District Congressman James Comer, who represents western Kentucky and is being mentioned as a possible candidate for the Republican gubernatorial nomination in 2023, has also agreed to speak.
State Auditor Mike Harmon, who has already announced his intent to run for governor in 2023, and Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles, another potential candidate, have also confirmed appearances for the event.
Those invited who have not yet confirmed include Kentucky’s two U.S. Senators, Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul, along with Attorney General Daniel Cameron.
State Treasurer Allison Ball, who recently gave birth to her second child, has declined, as has Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear and Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman.
Sebastian Kitchen in the Governor’s communications office sent Kentucky Today this statement when asked why Beshear and Coleman declined:
“With no elections scheduled for 2021, the governor will be spending that weekend with his family making up for opportunities lost during the pandemic, and the lieutenant governor will be volunteering in the commonwealth alongside her family. Fancy Farm is a great tradition and we’re committed to returning in the near future. With the aggressive rise in the delta variant and the vaccination rate in the region, the governor and lieutenant governor encourage anyone who plans on attending to get vaccinated as soon as possible.”
There will be a competing political event on that date, being sponsored by local labor unions, individuals and the Louisville Democratic Party. In a statement, organizers said:
“With the COVID and the delta variant increasing, a group is planning a counter-event to Fancy Farm, called ‘Fancyville,’ on Saturday, Aug. 7, in Louisville." Because Louisville usually sends a large delegation to Fancy Farm, and will not be this year, a donation will be sent to the St. Jerome Church in Fancy Farm, Ky.
“Being planned are the usual political speakers, assorted food and drink, and music along with having a COVID vaccination site.
“Further details along with moderators and other attractions will be finalized in the next few days.”
Fancy Farm did not become Kentucky’s top political event until 1931 when A.B. “Happy” Chandler made an appearance while campaigning for lieutenant governor and has since served in election years as the more-or-less official kickoff to the fall election campaign season.
The emcee of the event, who often serves as a referee and has to cut-off speakers who exceed their time limit, alternates between a Republican and a Democrat. This year is the Democrats’ turn with former Secretary of State Bob Babbage serving in the role.