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Community Roots: Selections from the Local Legacies Project
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Crowd listens to politicians at Fancy Farm Picnic
Crowd listens to political speeches at Fancy Farm Picnic, Mayfield, Kentucky.

Fancy Farm Picnic

For 120 consecutive years, picnickers and politicians have been making their way to Fancy Farm for this annual event, held the first Saturday of August at St. Jerome's Parish in Mayfield. It grew out of a family reunion in the 1830s held at Fancy Farm, 10 miles west of Mayfield, the county seat of Graves County. For years the picnic was held down by the creek where the water was clean and clear and the trees gave abundant shade for a nice summer get-together. The men barbecued sheep and the ladies brought the trimmings. Games were played, and everyone had a great time. Gradually, the picnic evolved into an annual homecoming. After a hiatus during the Civil War years, the picnic resumed in 1880. Politicians began to attend the picnic early on, since, at that time, elections were held one week later.

For years, political oratory was held under a massive oak tree. When lightning struck the tree in 1974 and it died, Kentucky Governor Louie Nunn quipped: "Too much fertilizer will kill anything." Politicians who have attended over the years include Texas Senator Lloyd Bentsen, Kentucky Senators Wendell Ford and Mitch McConnell, Governor "Happy" Chandler, Vice Presidents Al Barkley and Al Gore. Over 18,000 pounds of pork and mutton are served, along with some 1,400 pounds of chicken, hamburgers, hot dogs, 400 pounds each of potato salad and cole slaw, and pies and cakes homemade by ladies of the community. Fancy Farm is entirely a community effort; there are no outside vendors at the picnic.

Senator Mitch McConnell hails the picnic as an event when "those aspiring to office [made] their case directly (and I mean directly) to the people." To McConnell, "Fancy Farm is, at once, equal parts carnival, barbeque picnic, church social, and political theater ... a grand Kentucky tradition."

Project documentation includes a three-page essay, photographs, letters from state and national politicians, a newspaper article, and several copies of the St. Jerome newsletter.

Originally submitted by: Ed Whitfield, Representative (1st District).

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The Local Legacies project provides a "snapshot" of American Culture as it was expressed in spring of 2000. Consequently, it is not being updated with new or revised information with the exception of "Related Website" links.

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