ffarmFANCY FARM, Ky.  (8/2/2014) – For 134 years, the Fancy Farm Picnic has been the official political kickoff for the General Election in Kentucky.  In reality, the campaigns have been in full swing for months, and the last 100 days are considered “the stretch” (using a horse racing term).

The picnic is the annual fundraiser for St. Jerome Catholic Church in Fancy Farm (Graves County, Ky.), and it raises thousands of dollars each year for the church.

The political speeches are a throwback to earlier times, when politicians would travel around and speak to people standing on a platform or even a log or stump of a tree.  Terms like “stumping for votes”, “speaking from the stump” or just “stumping” were descriptive of those times.  This year, the politicians spoke from a new stage with an excellent sound system.

The Fancy Farm Picnic is a tough venue for most political speakers.  Many political careers reach an early end at Fancy Farm.  Speaking at Fancy Farm is like speaking during a prison riot or junior high cafeteria food fight.  It is always hot and humid; and, it is usually dusty or muddy.

But, the food, bingo and games bring out the crowds.

A record crowd was in attendance this year.  Some officials estimated the crowd as up 30 percent from last year.  It is a large production and hundreds of thousands of dollars are spent by the campaigns and media to cover Fancy Farm.  Volunteers are bussed in and are coached prior to the speeches.  The volunteers have coaches that direct responses and make noise.  Crowd response is choreographed with the speaker. 

C-SPAN and KET provided live coverage and you can still see the speeches at http://www.ket.org/fancyfarm/.

It is interesting to note that the video of the speakers gives a very different impression than visiting the event and watching the response from those in the crowd.  Listening to the speech and watching the video clips gives you different impressions.  Such is the political world of 30-second ads, Facebook, Twitter, email and 24-hour cable news.

A Kentucky politician that passes on an opportunity to speak at Fancy Farm does so at their own peril.  However, the vast majority of those in attendance, were the political junkies.  They already knew who they supported and for whom they will be voting.  And, they will vote (some as many times as they can).  They are at Fancy Farm to swell the numbers for their candidate(s) and put on a good showing.

Fancy Farm is when the candidates roll out their talking points that they hope will carry them through the November General Election.  This year, was no exception.  In the U.S. Senate race, the stakes could not be higher.  Most political observers believe that control of the U.S. Senate will be determined in Kentucky.  Those that like President Obama will want to vote for Alison Lundergan Grimes (D) to keep Democrats in control of the Senate and push for a more liberal agenda.  Those that oppose Obama will want to vote for Sen. Mitch McConnell (R) to give Republicans control of the U.S. Senate, and promote a more conservative agenda.  If Democrats retain control, Harry Reid will likely remain Senate Majority Leader.  If Republicans take control, Mitch McConnell will likely become Senate Majority Leader.

With such high stakes, Kentucky will be the epicenter of politics for the remainder of the year.  Millions of dollars will pour into Kentucky for both candidates.  If the attendance at Fancy Farm is any indication, we can expect a larger turnout than the last off-year election in 2010, when only 48.92 percent of registered Kentucky voters voted.

Here are the statistics today:

Kentucky registered voters










Total Kentucky Population


KY Population over 18




Ron Sanders
SurfKY News


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