In Aug. 12 IssueBy Derek AaronTimes Journal Reporter
Russell County's own Jeff Hoover served as the master of ceremonies at the 130th Fancy Farm picnic over the weekend, calling it an "honor" and a "once in a lifetime experience."
The House Minority Leader said the Graves County event, which usually has 15,000 in attendance, had its largest crowd ever over the weekend.
"There was a big, big turnout," Hoover said. "Of course the U.S. Senate race between Rand Paul and Jack Conway is drawing a lot of attention and then you had the governor and Senator McConnell there."
Hoover said he spent last Thursday and Friday in Fancy Farm speaking at other various fundraisers and picnics on behalf of some Republican candidates. On Saturday morning, he spoke at a breakfast at Graves County High School before emceeing the big political rally that afternoon.
"It was very hot but it was a lot of fun," he said. "And, for the first time ever it was covered live by CSPAN." The event was also videotaped for later showings on KET as well.
He said he had received numerous phone calls and messages this week from friends around the country that said they saw him speak on CSPAN.
"I wasn't nervous, but I just went around to everyone and told them what I was going to say about their introduction and made sure I had all the biographical information correct," he said.
As he introduced the speakers, he was prepared to get some booing and jeering but said he really didn't get any.
"I was pleased about that," he said. "I've been told that some emcees in the past were more partisan but I was very non-partisan. I didn't favor one candidate over the other … people told me they appreciated that."
While many folks spoke at the rally, Hoover said there was one that stood out.
"Quite honestly, I thought the best speech of the day was by Governor Beshear," he said. "Even though we're different political parties, just trying to observe independently and objectively he probably had the best overall speech."
Hoover said Beshear had the crowd engaged and was "fired up" about his speech.
"I've had some other people tell me the same thing," he said of the governor's talk.
"Senator McConnell had a very good speech as well," he said.
In the U.S. Senate race, Hoover said Attorney General Jack Conway threw some "pretty strong jabs" at Rand Paul.
"He had a prepared speech that had the crowd playing to him and he delivered that well," Hoover said. He said Paul, who leads in many of the current polls, also spoke using prepared notes, something he has rarely done up to this point.
"Paul realizes he is ahead ... and did not want to make any gaffs so both (Conway and Paul) accomplished what I believe they wanted to Saturday," Hoover said.
During the daylong event Saturday, he said he also met a lot of new people from all over the state and saw some famous faces of Kentucky and U.S. politics, including Beshear, McConnell, Paul, Conway, Secretary of State Trey Grayson, former Gov. Paul Patton as well as Virginia's Eric Cantor, the minority whip in the U.S. House of Representatives.
"After it was over I just hung around for a while and talked to people and ate some barbecue," he said.
Being a picnic, food is obviously a big part of Fancy Farm. A total of 19,500 pounds of pork and mutton, 5,600 pieces of chicken, 750 pounds of potato salad, 140 gallons of corn, and tables filled with cakes and pies, according to reports. For $10, one could eat as much as they wanted.
"The mutton was just unbelievable," he said. "Fancy Farm is just a uniquely Kentucky political event. You have 15,000 people come out on a hot Saturday afternoon in August to hear political speeches."
Current legislators, former legislators, lobbyists and "average Joes" helps make the event what it is, a free picnic and political rally on the grounds of St. Jerome Parish in Fancy Farm, a small community of just over 1,000 people, and serves as the unofficial kickoff for the fall campaign season.