Before Fancy Farm, Kentucky candidates make headlines
The stage were the candidates will deliver their speeches at Fancy Farm.
Alison Lundergan Grimes address supporters the night before Fancy Farm. (Source: Drug Druschke, WAVE 3 News)
Sen. Rand Paul spoke at a rally in Graves County to GOP supporters. (Source: Doug Druschke, WAVE 3 News)
FANCY FARM, KY (WAVE) - Who said Fancy Farm was the first shot in Kentucky's fall election campaign?
Big-name politicians made plenty of news Friday night on the eve of the infamous Graves County picnic. The candidates used events in front of supporters as warm-up acts, where they could practice punch lines and speeches before taking the important – yet risky – Fancy Farm stage.
U.S. Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes flubbed a line in her speech to Democratic backers at a Marshall County bean soup dinner. She recovered well, but the potentially record-setting Fancy Farm crowd won’t be as forgiving on Saturday.
“Fancy Farm and (Sen.) Mitch McConnell’s campaign do have one thing in common,” Grimes began one of her one-liners, “Fancy Farm has concession speeches – concession stands – while on Nov. 4, Mitch McConnell will have concession stands! Oh, backwards! Let me get this right!
“Fancy Farm has concession stands while Mitch McConnell will have a concession speech,” Grimes said as her supporters laughed and cheered.
McConnell was in Washington all day and wasn’t at a Marshall County GOP dinner, but the senator will arrive in time for Saturday’s events, a campaign spokeswoman said.
At the Republican dinner, James Comer, the state Agriculture Commissioner, lobbed insults toward his potential future opponent in the 2015 governor’s race, Attorney General Jack Conway.
Comer has said he would announce his gubernatorial intentions from the Fancy Farm stage, but came close to announcing his run Friday night.
And U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, who’s using Fancy Farm as a warm-up act for a three-day trip to Iowa next week, said he would decide next spring whether to run for president in 2016.
“A lot of the message I’m trying to take – and I’ll take to Iowa – is what I said here (in Marshall County), about making our party bigger, better and bolder,” Paul said. “And that gets national attention, obviously, when you go to early primary states.”
The Fancy Farm stage is steeped in Kentucky political history, but veteran watchers of the event will notice changes this year.
For one, organizers have replaced the wooden stage with one made of red brick, concrete and a white fence. The old structure was “dilapidated,” said Mark Wilson, the political speaking chairman for St. Jerome Parish, which hosts the picnic.
Wilson also asked both state parties and U.S. Senate campaigns to tell supporters to reduce heckling during this year’s speeches.
“We don’t expect the crowd to be silent, because this is Fancy Farm,” Wilson said. “But we wanted to cut out what I would define as the constant shouting and a ‘scream-fest.’”
Wilson said he was “optimistic” that the crowd would behave.
This year’s Fancy Farm picnic may eclipse the 1992 event and set a new attendance record, Wilson said. He predicted up to 20,000 attendees because of good weather and the high-profile campaign, which would double a typical year.
Organizers said they expected to serve about 6,000 meals of mutton, pork and chicken. The picnic may run out of food earlier than usual because of the crowd size, organizers said.