Fancy Farm, KY
A Beautiful Southern Town

Political Speaking

Alben Barkley
VP of the USA
Born near Fancy Farm
Speaker at the Picnics

Congressman Ed Whitfield

2015 St. Jerome Fancy Farm Picnic
Political Speaking Order

Fancy Farm Political Chairman - Welcome/Introductions
Bishop William Medley - Invocation

Ms. Ramsey Carpenter - My Old Kentucky Home
Ms. Carson McKee - The Star Spangled Banner

Matt Jones - EMCEE

Representative Richard Heath - R 
Senator Stan Humphries - R
Congressman Ed Whitfield - R
Senator Mitch McConnell - R
Governor Steve Beshear - D
Governor Candidate Jack Conway - D
Governor Candidate Matt Bevin - R
Lt. Governor Crit Luallen - D
Lt. Governor Candidate Jeanean Hampton - R
Lt. Governor Candidate Sannie Overly - D
Agriculture Commissioner - James Comer - R
Agriculture Commissioner Candidate Jean Marie Spann - D
Agriculture Commissioner Candidate Ryan Quarles - R
Attorney General Candidate Andy Beshear - D
Attorney General Candidate Whitney Westerfield - R
Secretary of State Incumbent - Alison Grimes - D
Secretary of State Candidate Steve Knipper - R
Auditor Incumbent Adam Edelen - D
Auditor Candidate Mike Harmon - R
Treasurer Todd Hollenbach - D
Treasurer Candidate Allison Ball - R
Treasurer Candidate Rick Nelson - D

Candidates flip coin for speaking order
Roster/Order/Speaking Times subject to change per FF Political Committee

Governor's Race, Obama Central Issues at Fancy Farm
Mayfield Messenger, August 8, 2011

Two took center stage at this year's Fancy Farm Picnic:  the governor's race, and, despite not having set foot in the region, President Barack Obama.

If Fancy Farm is any indication of what is to come, the upcoming campaign for governor will be an ugly one.  Republican candidate David Williams, US Senators Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul, and other Republican officials sought to link Beshear with the President, who remains unpopular in Kentucky.  Governor Beshear, meanwhile, steered clear of attacks on his opponent, choosing instead to talk about the soldiers he met during a recent trip overseas.

This election saw three men take to the stage in the governor's race:  Beshear (D), Williams (R) and independent candidate Gatewood Galbraith.  Williams fired the first shot.  "If I were Steve Beshear, I wouldn't want to talk about my record, either," he said, then later added, "As your governor, I will stand up to Barack Obama, save the coal industry . . . and return our nation to liberty!"

Galbraith took it a step further, accusing the governor of hiding behind the soldiers when he should be discussing the issues.  "That was the worst darn speech I ever heard anybody give", she said, "I was highly offended by it."

Senator McConnell, who suggested Beshear supported Obama's policies, said Kentucky needed a governor like Williams who would refuse to endorse the President's ideals.  "Is there anybody out there who is better off since Beshear and Obama took over?"  he asked a raucous crowd.

Polls show Obama remains an unpopular figure in Kentucky, nearly three years after losing the state to Hillary Clinton in the 2008 primary and Senator John McCain in the general election.  The GOP hopes to capitalize on Obama's negative perception in the state in their push to unseat Beshear.

Fresh off an overseas tour of the Middle East to visit Kentucky soldiers, Beshear opted out of the partisan, political rhetoric usually expected in Fancy Farm.  Instead, he dedicated his entire speech to his experiences with troops serving in war torn areas.

"My heart and mind are not with partisan politics", Beshear said.  "My heart and mind are thousands of miles away in Iraq and Afghanistan."

Williams and Galbraith, on the other hand, took the opportunity to not only draw contrasts between themselves and Beshear, a popular incumbent who is leading the race by more than 20 percentage points, but also to criticize his record as governor.  Williams said Beshear had not done enough to preserve jobs in the state, a key issue focused on in his campaign ads.  Galbraith said partisanship has deadlocked both sides so much that neither can get the job done.

Galbraith is making his fifth run for governor.  He officially entered the race last month.  Early polls show him the favorite of nearly 10 percent of likely voters, positioning him as a potential spoiler if the race between Beshear and Williams tightens leading up to the November 8 election.

Other Republican candidates and officials also took the opportunity not only to take jabs at the governor, but to criticize the actions of the Obama administration.  Congressman Ed Whitfield criticized the President's healthcare package, saying it would double the cost of care in five years and the federal government cannot pay for it.

Williams' running mate, Richie Farmer, along with Secretary of State candidates Bill Johnson, State Auditor candidate John Kemper III and Attorney General candidate Todd P'Poole also linked Beshear and their respective opponents with the President.

Senator Paul, meanwhile, accused Beshear of sending Kentucky jobs to Tennessee because of high taxes.  "People from Tennessee love Steve Beshear", he jested.  "They love Kentucky high taxes because (Beshear) keeps sending jobs to them."

More than 10,000 people attended the event on the St. Jerome Parish grounds, where initial weather forecasts called for an afternoon temperature in the mid-90's and a heat index of 105 degrees.  Heavy rainfall throughout the morning and cool winds slightly lowered those temperatures.

Some Things You May Not Know About the Fancy Farm Picnic
Mayfield Messenger, August 4, 2011

- Until 1974, the political speaking was held on a makeshift platform under a huge oak tree on the front yard of the school grounds.  The 130-year-old tree had served as the shade and backdrop for past political speaking.  However, the tree was felled by lightning the week before the 1974 picnic.  Many said lightning struck because of the years of hearing so many lies from politicians.  They speculated the tree was tired of hearing the same old rhetoric.

- The 100th picnic in 1980 attracted what to this day is still considered the most prestigious lineup of speakers.  It included US Senators Wendell Ford and Walter (Dee) Huddleston; former US Senator John Sherman Cooper; former lieutenant governor, governor, US senator and baseball commissioner Happy Chandler; former Governor Ned Breathitt; all of the state's elected officials and US House Majority Leader Jim Wright of Texas.  It was an historic event, because long-time political nemeses Chandler and Cooper sat side-by-side and chatted as though they were longtime political friends.

- In 1981, the speaking moved to a permanent speaker's platform at the rear of the school grounds.

- The 1984 picnic marked the first appearance of Mitch McConnell, the Jefferson County judge-executive who was running for US Senate.  McConnell laid the groundwork for what became a successful campaign by criticizing his opponent, Democrat Walter Huddleston.

- The 1986 picnic was marked by some of the best and worst political speeches ever.  The highlight was the verbal battles between six candidates running for governor, Lt. Governor Steve Beshear, former Governor Julian Carroll, Wallace Wilkinson, Grady Stumbo, Ann Moore and State Senator Joe Prather.  Republican US Senate candidate Jackson Andrews, running against popular incumbent Senator Wendell Ford, gave what to this day is still considered one of the most boring speeches in Fancy Farm history.  Although there were 20 politicians on the agenda, Andrews spoke for 37 minutes, ready every word in his 20-page speech, ignoring the boos and shouts to "sit down and shut up" from even members of his own party.  The next year, candidates were given a time limit.

- National politics was at the forefront in 1988 with the appearance of US Senator Lloyd Bentsen of Texas, the Democratic nominee for Vice-President.  One interesting note from the media coverage of Bentsen is that he avoided a direct question concerning barbecue.  After saying Western Kentucky Barbecue was delicious, he was asked if it was better than Texas barbecue.  Bentsen gave a political answer:  "You don't think you're going to get me to answer that one, do you?"

- The largest crowd to ever attend a Fancy Farm Picnic showed up in 1992 to see and hear Al Gore, a then popular senator for Tennessee who was running for Vice-President.  Gore enjoyed leading cheers of Democrats in an effort to quiet Republican hecklers.

- In 1993 and 1994, US Senator McConnell added a new dynamic to the picnic with the use of charts and graphs in the crowd to make his points.  In 1995, spectators not only cheered, chanted and hollered at opposing candidates, but they also brought horns and noise makers.  In 1996, picnic organizers imposed rules prohibiting props and noise makers.

Information provided by Mark Wilson, Fancy Farm Political Chairman.

Fancy Farm Picnic Chair Announces Tentative List of Speakers
Mayfield Messenger, July 6, 2011

With exactly one month left before the 131st annual Fancy Farm Picnic, Political Chairman Mark Wilson announced the tentative list of speakers for this year's event.

Governor Steve Beshear, who seeks reelection this year, is expected to attend, alongside his Republican rival David L. Williams.  Independent candidate Gatewood Galbraith's response is still pending, as is that of his running mate, Dea Riley.

Both Lt. Governor candidates, Jerry Abramson (D) and Richie Farmer (R), are also expected to be there.

Senators Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul and Representative Ed Whitfield have been invited but have yet to respond at this time.

Others expected to attend include outgoing Secretary of State Elaine Walker and candidates Alison Grimes (D) and Bill Johnson (R), candidate for state auditor Adam Edelen (D), Attorney General Jack Conway (D) and campaign rival Todd Pool (R), candidate for state treasurer KC Crosbie and agriculture commissioner candidate Jamie Comer.  State Senator Ken Winters (R) and State Representative Fred Nesler (D) are also expected to attend.

Judge Mike Miller (D) from Marshall County will serve as emcee.  "Mr. Democrat in far-western Kentucky . . . should prove to be a very colorful emcee!" Wilson said via press release.

KET will be hosting a live broadcast on KET1 and WYMC in Mayfield will do a live broadcast for local listeners.

This list is tentative and subject to change.

In Kentucky, politicians go where the people are—and with good reason. Folklore has it that anyone in Kentucky politics who doesn’t speak at the annual Fancy Farm Picnic doesn’t get elected.

“I’m not sure whether most politicians believe this is true, but a lot of them show up anyway,” says Bob Spalding, the event’s chairman and director for the last 24 years.

Some 15,000 people, including dozens of candidates with a taste for savory barbecue and an even greater appetite for votes, attend the politically charged event—the unofficial kickoff of fall campaigning in Kentucky politics.

Spalding describes the Fancy Farm Picnic as a forum for “back-home” politics, a homecoming for former residents, and a destination for those who love barbecue, good company, and outdoor fun. Admission is free, and $7 buys all the barbecue and extras you can eat ($3.50 if you’re 12 or under).

This year, the Fancy Farm community (pop. 900), so named by its founders in 1843 for its many elegant farms, will barbecue about 18,000 pounds of pork and mutton. That’s roughly 3,000 pounds more than in 1984 when Fancy Farm set a Guinness World Record for the largest one-day picnic and barbecue.

The picnic, held on the first Saturday in August, began before the Civil War as a gathering among families after tobacco crops were harvested. It was suspended during the war and resumed in 1880. Over time, the picnic gained popularity—especially among Kentucky politicians who saw it as a prime opportunity to “stump” for votes (originally, to speak from the high ground of a tree stump).

Speaking at Fancy Farm is open to candidates running for any Kentucky or national office. Turnout is particularly heavy during highly contested congressional races.

“You just didn’t ignore the opportunity to come down here and get exposure,” says Lloyd Clapp, former speaker pro tempore for the Kentucky House of Representatives. Clapp, who retired in 1986 after 21 years in office, spoke at the Fancy Farm Picnic almost every year of his political career.

Fancy Farm also is popular with candidates courting the national vote.  Kentucky native and former Vice President Alben W. Barkley made regular appearances during the 1940s. Perennial presidential candidate George C. Wallace attended, and Vice President Al Gore, a former U.S. senator from Tennessee, stopped to campaign in 1992. Spalding is optimistic that one or both candidates in this year’s presidential election will attend.

While political turnout at the shindig is unpredictable, its schedule remains the same. Carnival-like games begin at 10 a.m. and continue throughout the day. A band plays bluegrass and country music until 2 p.m., at which time the politicking begins.

For this, the audience gathers near the remains of the old lyin’ tree, named for the free-flowing promises of ambitious politicians who once spoke beneath it. It was “critically wounded” in 1974 by what has been described as “a nonpartisan bolt of lightning.”

Political speeches conclude at precisely 4 p.m., and the music flows again until the picnic ends with the raffle of a new car at 11 p.m.

Berry Craig, an associate history professor at Paducah Community College, uses Fancy Farm as a teaching tool, saying the event steps back to a time when candidates relied more heavily on their live oratory skills than on television ads and the media.

“I always encourage my students to go to at least one Fancy Farm Picnic,” he says, “because it’s a throwback to the stump-style speaking that Kentucky and Tennessee were famous for a hundred years ago.”

by Brian Courtney
A Contributor to American Profile - 07-22-2000
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