At first glance the Fancy Farm picnic in western Kentucky looks like a normal church event full of bingo, yard games, fellowship and lots of barbecue. 

What You Need To Know

  • The money from the picnic goes to St. Jerome Catholic Church in Fancy Farm, Kentucky

  • The Fancy Farm picnic has become a rite of passage for people running for office in the area

  • Sen. Rand Paul was in Washington, D.C., for votes and did not attend. His wife spoke on his behalf

“Approximately 20,000 pounds total,” said Leonard Foss, a Fancy Farm resident who has volunteered at the event for more than 25 years. “13,000 pounds of pork and 7,000 pounds of mutton.” 

On the other side of the lot you’ll find political t-shirts, signs and campaign fans to help attendees beat the heat. At 2 p.m. Central Time, the stump speeches start. This part of the tradition started in the early 1900s and it doesn’t feel like a church picnic at all. 

“It’s hot. People are yelling at you. Your opponent is sitting right there watching for any possible mistake. His hecklers are going after you and sometimes people can make mistakes that can kill a campaign,” said political commentator Al Cross. 

Republicans and Democrats went back and forth and there were plenty of pointed jabs. In the U.S. Senate race, former Democratic state representative Charles Booker is running against Republican incumbent Rand Paul, who has represented Kentucky in the Senate since 2011. 

Supporters of Charles Booker at Fancy Farm. (Spectrum News 1/Julia Benbrook)

“Kentuckians show up, so that’s why it should be no surprise to anyone that Rand Paul is nowhere to be found,” said Booker in his speech. “Folks, he’s not even a real libertarian. He doesn’t want the government out of your way. He just wants it in his pocket.” 

Paul was in Washington because of the Senate vote schedule, so his wife, Kelley, spoke on his behalf. She took aim at the Biden Administration. 

“Biden says don’t worry. We’re not in a recession. Well, I wouldn’t expect the Democrats to understand what a recession is. They can’t even define what a woman is,” Paul said in her speech. “Come November we’ll say ‘Bye! Bye!’ to the Democrats and their drag queens.” 

Republican speakers have far outnumbered Democrats at Fancy Farm over the last few years. In 2020 the political speeches were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2021 no Democrats took part in the political speeches. This year there were three Democrats and 10 Republicans who took part.