FANCY FARM, Ky. — Kentucky's most legendary political happening may look different, but organizers are vowing to still have some sort of Fancy Farm political picnic. COVID-19 is threatening the 140 year tradition known for barbeque, crowds and rowdy politics.
It defines the opposite of "social distancing." More than 10,000 people make the pilgrimage to tiny Fancy Farm, Kentucky on the first Saturday in August for a legendary Western Kentucky church festival and political picnic.
“We want to continue to be relevant," said Steve Elder, Fancy Farm Co-chairman. "So, we want to have it.”
Now, just more than two months out, in a world changed by coronavirus, the aroma of barbeque is a distant dream and questions remain as to whether the show will go on for this, the 140th year.
“We've been doing this for over 100 years and this is really bringing the picnic to its knees and making us reevaluate what kind of picnic we can have”, explained Elder.
Whether that will include an unimaginable crowdless venue, virtual or something in-between, organizers aren't sure. They vow to do something but when they typically would be meeting weekly, announcing an M-C and lineup, they're playing it by ear and monitoring changing public safety guidelines and praying the St. Jerome Parish Picnic will take shape.
At a time when political vitriol is fever pitched and images such as Sunday's effigy hanging at the Capitol and venom fill social media, organizers recall raucous but good-natured moments at Fancy Farm. One of them took place in 2015 when US Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell presented Governor Steve Beshear with a selfie that the Governor had taken with McConnell in the background.
Sen. McConnell presented the picture as a retirement gift. Both men smiled and laughed during the impromptu presentation.
“We want to have fun," said Elder. “We want to enjoy each other and we want to see smiles on both sides of the aisle, but we don't want to have anything like they had at the Capitol yesterday.”
Missing a year is not an option. Fancy Farm did not even pause for World War II. Organizers tell me that the only change made then was raffling off washing machines instead of cars. They intend to roll out a car, or cash, again this year even if COVID-19 is not entirely in the rearview mirror.