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Fancy Farm Picnic Cancels Political Speeches
Kentucky Ag Connection - 06/26/2020

Kentucky's premiere political event will be silenced this year amid the coronavirus pandemic. The political speeches at the Fancy Farm picnic have been canceled. That's according to organizers of the annual picnic in the Graves County community of Farm Farm.

The political speaking beneath the shaded pavilion at St. Jerome's Catholic Church Parish in western Kentucky has become a rite of passage for candidates in the Bluegrass State.

Some traditions will go on at the picnic. For barbecue fans, the picnic will still feature pork and mutton sold by the pound. An online and in-person raffle will still take place.

Fancy Farm is an unincorporated community and census-designated place. It is on Kentucky Route 80 in the rural, far-western portion of the state called the Jackson Purchase. It was settled by Roman Catholics starting in 1829. The community grew around the church, built in 1836. The colorful name was apparently chosen when the post office opened, by a man who was applying to be postmaster in 1843. It was first mentioned in the U.S. Census in 1870 as a post office in Boswell Precinct; first mentioned as a town in Magisterial District 5 in the 1910 census; and finally enumerated as a town in its own precinct in the 1920 census.

The annual picnic is famous as a traditional political gathering attracting statewide and occasionally national candidates. The picnic, referred to by non-locals as the "Fancy Farm Picnic," began in 1881 as a purely local affair. It takes place on the grounds of the church, which have expanded thanks in part to the picnic's success. Since 1956, the year that Kentucky moved its primary election to May from August, it has been held on the first Saturday in August and has come to represent the traditional starting point of the fall campaign season in Kentucky.

The picnic was of largely local interest until two-time Governor A. B. "Happy" Chandler (best known for being the second Commissioner of Major League Baseball) began making appearances, going for the first time in 1931 while running successfully for lieutenant governor.

So many Kentucky politicians attend that it is news when a major state politician decides not to make an appearance, such as U.S. Sen. Jim Bunning in 2007. National figures who have made speeches include George C. Wallace in 1975, Lloyd Bentsen in 1988 and Al Gore in 1992. Vice President Alben Barkley, who was born at nearby Wheel and lived in Paducah, spoke many times over the years.


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