Political speaking at the famous Fancy Farm political picnic in Western Kentucky will resume again this year on Aug. 7 but without Gov. Andy Beshear and Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman.
Steven Elder, political chairman for the picnic held in the tiny community of Fancy Farm in Graves County on the first Saturday in August, said Thursday in a news release that the state’s top two elected officials have declined invitations to speak at this year’s picnic.
The picnic is shaping up to be an event for potential Republican prospects for governor in 2023. Accepting invitations are U.S. Rep. James Comer of Tompkinsville, Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles and Auditor Mike Harmon. Harmon already has declared his candidacy.
Sebastian Kitchen, a spokesman for Beshear, said the Democratic governor and lieutenant governor are not attending the picnic this year because there are no elections this fall.
“With no elections scheduled for 2021, the governor will be spending that weekend with his family making up for opportunities lost during the pandemic and the lieutenant governor will be volunteering in the commonwealth alongside her family,” said Kitchen.
He added: “Fancy Farm is a great tradition and we’re committed to returning in the near future. With the aggressive rise in the delta variant and the vaccination rate in the region, the governor and lieutenant governor encourage anyone who plans on attending to get vaccinated as soon as possible.”
Beshear and Coleman were the only two Democrats who were on the schedule of political speakers, selected by virtue of their political offices.
Elder called the decisions by Beshear and Coleman “disheartening.”
“Traditionally, governors have made it to the public. It’s not just the few moments they are on stage but the events leading up to that, a chance to talk to the people of Western Kentucky,” he said. “Regardless, we will continue to have a picnic.”
Elder also said that responses to invitations sent to Kentucky U.S. Sens. Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul are pending. So is an invitation to Attorney General Daniel Cameron. All three are Republicans.
Secretary of State Michael Adams has confirmed his appearance. Treasurer Allison Ball, who had a baby recently, has declined.
The two area state legislators, both Republicans, have said they will be present — Sen. Jason Howell and Rep. Richard Heath.
This year’s emcee will be Bob Babbage of Lexington, a former Kentucky secretary of state and auditor and lobbyist with Babbage Cofounder.
A limited version of the picnic was held last year but the political speaking and games were canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. The picnic traditionally kicks off the fall political campaign in Kentucky. This year is the 141st picnic.
There are no elections this year in Kentucky but speculation already is rising about the 2023 race for governor and next year’s race for U.S. Senate. Incumbent Paul has gotten a Democratic challenger, former state Rep. Charles Booker of Louisville.
The picnic is a fundraiser for the St. Jerome’s Catholic Church and school. The Guinness Book of World Records has dubbed the picnic the “World’s Largest Picnic” for the consumption of 15,000 pounds of mutton at the 1982 event.
Besides the political speaking, the picnic will feature bingo and, of course, barbecue.