LOUISVILLE (WHAS11) -- It wouldn't be the Kentucky State Fair without the annual Kentucky Country Ham Breakfast and Auction. The annual event is hosted by the Kentucky Farm Bureau and celebrates the Commonwealth's deep agricultural roots.
“Our state was founded with the tradition and heritage that runs deep and is connected to farming and agriculture across all our rural counties but even here, in Jefferson County has an economic presence,” said Ryan Quarles, Kentucky Commissioner of Agriculture.
Thursday marked the 54th year for the event, drawing in a crowd of nearly 1,600 people.
The first auction was held in 1964 where the ham sold for just $124. More than five decades later and the event has certainly grown, and so have the hams.
“This ham is a big boy, it's kind of like me, you've got a big auctioneer and 21 pound, really big ham,” said Auctioneer Junior Staggs.
This year's Grand Champion ham weighed in at 21 pounds, the largest to date. It sold to Central Bank for $325,000, a pricey piece of pork but not the highest in the event's history. In 2014 the winning bid was a record-setting $2 million.
“We try to make it as exciting as we possibly can,” Staggs said.
The South Wing of the Kentucky Expo Center was packed with people and some of the state’s top political leaders, all enjoying a farm to table breakfast. The morning was full of politics and pig, all in an effort to connect the people of Kentucky with its farmers.
“We're able to come together and talk about some of the things we certainly have in common with folks that live in urban areas along with rural, and that's food,” said Mark Haney, President of the Kentucky Farm Bureau Federation.
State leaders say Kentucky's agriculture industry has an economic impact of more than $45 billion a year and provides more than 200,000 jobs.
Representatives from Central Bank say they’ll eat the ham on Christmas morning. The $325,000 spent on the auction will go to funding education, specifically at the University of Kentucky.