Annual Picnic Draws Large Crowd
The Paducah Sun August 7, 2011
Fancy Farm - In a state where residents are clearly delineated red or blue - be it college sports or politics - the annual Fancy Farm Picnic proves to be the opening salvo in the political world's equivalent of the Battle for the Bluegrass.
With the candidates' stage surrounded by cameras, media, politicos and supporters, the 131st Fancy Farm Picnic was not all that different in outwards appearances than a Bluegrass rivalry game on a hot Saturday faternoon. Complete with the tailgating staples of bean bag toss, grilled food and the cheers and jeers of hundreds, the picnic was a bustle of activity.
"It's always this exciting," Ricky Crenshaw said. "The people always really get into it and everyone has a good time, and enjoys themselves."
Crenshaw, a Paducah native who claims to be a Democrat through and through, said he's been planting his chair to the left of the stage for close to 30 years of Fancy Farm Picnics, but with how the economy has been recnetly, many people have been shifting bleachers.
"You just don't know who to believe anymore", Crenshaw said. "It's not one party more than it is the other. Whatever one wants, the other doesn't want the other to get and it's like a bunch of kinds in grade school."
Though the atmosphere of the picnic was not without its abundance of supporters, Mark Brown, Kentucky's Labor Cabinet Secrtary, said this year the speeches seemed to be more tame than they have been in previous years.
"I think it's a little bit subdued, it's not as rancorous as usual," Brown said.
For many people, the political atmosphere was secondary to the community bonding activities and food the picnic offered. Don Hobbs, who owns an doperates one of the barbecue stands at the picnic, said through the course of two days, his family-operated booth went through 9,000 pounds of mutton and over a thousand pounds of pork.
"I'd say about 50 percent of the people come for barbecue, the other for the speeches," Hobbs said, laughing. "It might not be the biggest year we've had, but there's been a big crowd, that's for sure."
Hobbs' family could take credit for most of the tasty memories people have of Fancy Farm barbecue, since they've been operating at the picnic for more than 50 years. Lydia Hobbs, Don't mother, said the magic of the picnic isn't about the speeches or the food, but about the community that comes together. "The morning the weather was bad, but people came together and had the faith it would brighten up outside and sure enough it did", she said. "To me it's the faith that this community has that makes this so special."
Spirited Crowd gets into the Act
Backers, foes make themselves heard
The Courier Journal August 7, 2011
Fancy Farm, KY - It was an arresting display - even for the annual political picnic known for outlandish exhibits and behavior.
In fact, the rotatin gexhibit mocking "GOP hot air" got owner Jay Latham, 81, arrested several years ago on a charge of disorderly conduct after officials at a Trigg County parade objected to a term Lathem used on it to describe the veracity of Republican campaign claims.
"I've been all over Western Kentucky on that thing and never had any trouble til then," said Latham, who tows the battery-powered display on a riding lawn mower.
But Saturday, to stay out of trouble at the Fancy Farm Picnic, he papered over the old word that began with bull with a new term: "propaganda".
"That's a lot better word anyway", Latham said.
There was plenty of rhetoric as the annual kickoff to the fall polical season got under way in the sweltering heat at the rural Western Kentucky Roman Catholic parish of St. Jerome.
The event is used to mock and laud candidates for statewide races, and Saturday provided plenty of both.
Before the traditional afternoon speeches got started, two teens from Marshall County roamed through the crowd shouting the slogan on posters they carried: "Duke fans for Conway!" - a jab at Attorney General Jack Conway, a Duke graduate seeking a second term.
Promoting Conway's ties to the University of Kentucky hated basketball rival was not meant to help Conway, acknowledged the teens, Coleman Flentge, 15, and Jake Devore, 18, both members of the Marshall County Young Conservatives.
"It's just to bash him", Coleman said. "Our goal is to have a little fun and harass some people."
Around the speaker's paviliion groups clustered in anticipation of cheering or booing candidates. They included more than 50 teachers, students and other representatives of the Kentucky Education Association who came to support Governor Steve Beshear and several other Democrat candidates. Association President Sharron Oxendine pledged to keep it civil.
"We'll get rowdy but we won't get ugly", she said.
Scores of Republican supporters swarmed the grounds in blue T-shirts proclaiming their support for GOP gubernatorial candidate David Williams and Todd P'Pool, who is running for Attorney General.
Karey Deardorff, a P'Pool supporter from the candidates home county, Hopkins, said her group planned to make some noise.
"You'll hear us", she said.
But away fromt eh political action, people thronged the bingo hall and lined up to play the standard games of church picnics, including the dunking booth - where as many kids lined upto volunteer to be dunked as paid $1 to throw baseballs at the target.
"The hotter it gets, the more they line up to get dunked", volunteer worker Courtney Englert said.
Did the kids care about the nearby political activity?
"Not really", she said. "They want to play the games, get dunked and eat cotton candy."
Fun for Everyone offered at 131st Fancy Farm Picnic
The Mayfield Messenger August 8, 2011
Political speeches capped the day at the 131st Fancy Farm Picnic. The annual Fancy Farm picnic is best known for its mouthwatering barbecue and spicy political rhetoric, and this year was no exception. Cheers and jeers emanated from the crowd that gathered to hear the political speeches and hot temperatures and barbecue were on the minds of many.
People of all ages registered and stood by the roadside to support the runners and enjoy the One Mile Classic Run Friday evening before the picnic. The race began at the front of St. Jerome Catholic Church. Both kids and adults raced to the creek bridge and back. The 5K Race (3.1 miles) followed with the runners making their trek down State Highway 339 down long roads and a few hills. The runners were greeted by hundred of people cheering them on as they crossed the finish line. Musical entertainment was the highlight of the evening with Lew Jetton and 61 South performing at the picnic grounds, in addition to the delicious meal served by the Fancy Farm Knights of Columbus at their dining hall.
Saturday morning, a breakfast was hosted for each political party by each of the local schools (Democratic Breakfast at Mayfield High School and the Republican Breakfast held at Graves County High School). Candidats were able to sit down for a delicious meal and enjoy some "face to face time" with their dedicated and loyal supporters.
Friday evening the picnic kicked off with music by Lou Jetton.
Before the polical speeches began at the picnic, the Emcee Marshall County Judge Executive Mike Miller announced that due to negotiations between the John Deere Tractor Company and the Marshall County Economic Development there would soon be a John Deere Tractor plant built in Marshall County. Judge Miller then jokingly said the tractors built at the factory would have no seats and no steering wheel for farmers who had "lost their butt and dind't know which way to turn", then added how he would be happy to see them coming to the area.
As the political speeches drew to a close, tour buses full of supporters and spectators, as well as the candidates' buses took to the road; however, one bus' back tire dropped off into a ditch as it pulled out of the packed parking lot onto State Highway 339 leading into Fancy Farm, causing officials to close the highway for almost an hour until the bus could be pulled from the ditch.
The shouts of "BINGO!" rang from the covered pavilion in the midst of hte picnic. Bingo, ring toss, golf, a dunking booth, and numerous other fun games were enjoyed by both the young and the old.
The winners of this year's raffle drawings are as follows: 2011 red Dodge Challenger grand prize winners were Walter and Andrea Winstead of Mayfield; and the winners of the three $500 cash prizes ewre Gene Hobbs of Wahsington, IL, Jim Thomas of St. Charles, MO, and Edwin Sullivan of Austin, TX.
Picnic organizers say they were not disappointed with the number in attendance at this year's event. Over 10,000 people were expected at the world's largest pincic. Ice cream, barbecue, and other treats were enjoyed by the crowd. With over 19,000 pounds of barbecue sold at this year's picnic, everyone got their fair share of pulled pork and politics. Before the evening's festivities drew to a close, the servers working at the concession reported that they had sold out of the barbecue mutton.