, Corbin, KY

State News

August 6, 2013

Fancy Farm garners national attention

CORBIN — By Ronnie Ellis / CNHI News Service

This year’s biggest winner at the annual Fancy Farm Picnic stump speaking may have been the Fancy Farm Picnic itself.

Just two months ago, the 133rd Fancy Farm was viewed as a likely ho-hum affair in an off-year election. But then both Alison Lundergan Grimes and Matthew Bevin got into the U.S. Senate race against Mitch McConnell.

All of a sudden, Fancy Farm was at the center of the nation’s political attention. About 12,000 showed last weekend and many veteran Fancy Farm reporters said the crowd for the stump speeches was the largest they could recall.

Among the throng were the national media. Reporters from Politico and National Public Radio were there. So were the Huffington Post’s Howard Fineman and NBC News’ Kacie Hunt who spread the word nationally about the spectacle that is the stump speaking at Fancy Farm.

As it does in most years, Kentucky Education Television broadcast Saturday’s speeches live and C-SPAN picked up the feed and re-ran the speeches nationally. There were stories in The Hill, the Washington Post and The New York Times.

Mark Wilson, the political chair at Fancy Farm, said the profile of Fancy Farm “has gone up another tier” with the national press presence this year and will only benefit future events.

“I think this year is just an appetizer for next year,” Wilson said Monday. “This has only planted the seed for subsequent years.”

Wilson said he talked to several of the national reporters who attended for the first time and most reflected the question of one: “What have I been missing?”

They picked a good year with Grimes, McConnell and Bevin on the same program, all of whom generally performed well, according to most press accounts. On top of that, or maybe because of it, the crowd for the stump speaking portion of the picnic may have been the largest in 30 years.

“From the speaking stand you could see it was just a solid mass of people all the way around the pavilion,” Wilson said. “I think it was one of the top five of all the crowds we’ve ever had.”

And those attending their first Fancy Farm were clearly impressed.

In addition to featuring Fancy Farm in its lead story in the Politics section, the New York Times called Fancy Farm “a venerable Kentucky Tradition.” The Times also posted a slide show of the crowds and candidates on its website.

By Monday morning, much of the nation knew about Fancy Farm – although the Washington Post may have earned some criticism from the fiercely protective volunteers who put on the annual event by calling it “quirky.”

Sunday and Monday there were national print stories, most datelined from the small rural town of less than 500 in Graves County. Then on Monday, the MSNBC Show Morning Joe devoted an entire segment to Fancy Farm with NBC’s Hunt on the set. Host Joe Scarborough, after hearing Hunt’s description and watching video segments of speeches by McConnell, Grimes and Bevin regretted he wasn’t there Saturday.

“I was in the wrong place this weekend,” Scarborough lamented as a video ran of Grimes helping Fancy Farm volunteers chop up mounds of barbecue pork.

That show was followed by another segment on the weekend by The Morning Rundown with Chuck Todd who called Fancy Farm “one of the great political events in this country.”

The Senate election doesn’t even take place until next year in 2014. The first Saturday in August of 2014 will also be nine months in advance of the 2015 gubernatorial primaries and the Fancy Farm event prior to a governor’s race is traditionally well-attended and closely watched.

Add that to the Senate race — which McConnell has termed the most important election in the country next year — and the 2014 Fancy Farm is likely to top even this year’s. There was even talk at this year’s event that someone named Clinton might appear next year — either in support of Grimes or perhaps in pursuit of another office.

Ronnie Ellis writes for CNHI News Service and is based in Frankfort. Reach him at Follow CNHI News Service stories on Twitter at

Text Only
State News
  • Healthcare signup in state extended

    While the national health exchange established by the Affordable Care Act — known to some as Obamacare — suffered glitches, crashes and delays, the Kentucky-run exchange, Kynect, was often used as a national model.

    April 4, 2014

  • Kentucky budget passed with little debate

    The Kentucky General Assembly, divided between chambers along party lines, overwhelmingly passed a $20-billion, new two-year budget not only on time but with almost no debate.

    April 1, 2014

  • Lawmakers agree on snow bill

    Kentucky school officials, parents and students finally have what they’ve been asking for: A bill to allow them to get out of school before the summer fully sets in, even if they don’t make up some of the days they missed during the severe winter.

    March 31, 2014

  • Tensions rise during budget negotiations

    Tensions increased Friday between the Republican Senate and Democratic House over continuing negotiations on a new, two-year budget. It even got personal at times.

    March 31, 2014

  • Kentucky Power plan a potential landscape-changer

    Electrical ratepayers, local governments and those employed in the coal industry might have a hard time understanding the complicated transaction through which Kentucky Power Company is purchasing half the generating capacity of a coal-fired West Virginia plant.

    March 28, 2014 2 Stories

  • Senate passes budget with no locked-in gas tax hikes

    The state Senate on Tuesday passed its version of a two-year revenue measure, and unlike the House version, it does not lock in gas tax increases.

    March 26, 2014

  • House passes bill aimed at saving Big Sandy Plant

    Backers of a bill to require the Kentucky Public Service Commission to “reconsider” its previous order approving Kentucky Power’s purchase of a West Virginia generator say all they are asking “is for them to take a second look and look at all the facts.”

    March 26, 2014 1 Story

  • Judge: Companies can’t use eminent domain for pipeline project

    Franklin Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd on Tuesday ruled that companies building a natural gas liquids pipeline across parts of Kentucky cannot invoke eminent domain to force private property owners to provide easements.

    March 26, 2014

  • Still no snow day solution from lawmakers

    Senate and House negotiators, working on a bill to give school districts flexibility in making up snow days, each accused the other of moving the goal posts – but it’s the local school districts who may be penalized.

    March 25, 2014

  • Senate sets budget with ‘wiggle room’

    It was no surprise the Republican-controlled Kentucky state Senate altered the $20 billion, two-year state budget approved by the Democratic-controlled House, but there may have been a few who were surprised by how little it was changed.

    March 25, 2014