Fancy Farm organizers consider adding speakers during off-cycle election year

04/11/2017 01:47 PM

In Kentucky, the first Saturday in August is a time for mountains of meat, farm fresh vegetables and some of the best old-time political crowd interaction in the country.

On the grounds of St. Jerome Catholic Church the 137th annual Fancy Farm Picnic will feature more of what Kentuckians have come to love, but in an off-cycle election year the event will seek to add a few extra speakers to keep things lively.

Mark Wilson, chairman of the political speaking event, told Spectrum News Pure Politics that invites would again be going out to U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul, U.S. Rep. James Comer, Gov. Bevin, and other statewide constitutional officer holders as well as local elected officials — state Sen. Stan Humphries and Rep. Richard Heath.

“We’ll be an off year and we won’t have any contested races … We’ll probably look at adding a few more speakers on both sides of the aisle – the Democratic side and Republican side to help fill the roster,” Wilson said in a phone interview.

Wilson said the picnic would take a look at potentially inviting House and Senate legislative leaders from the Democratic and Republican Party — though others could also be invited. Speaking at the event is usually kept between 1 to 1.5 hours.

Speaking slots are always will also be made available for a surrogate speaker for President Trump or Vice President Pence or other high level cabinet members, Wilson said.

“We haven’t reached out to them yet, but that’s always in the realm of possibility,” he added.

Wilson did warn that in the years after the 9/11 attacks the picnic has “shied away” from hosting a sitting president or vice president for a variety of reasons.
Not only would there be added restrictions put in place by security details, but Wilson also worried a high level speaker would bring in more people than the picnic could adequately handle.

“We try to stay focused more on the statewide and our federal delegation,” he said. “But we definitely have an open door for surrogate speakers for high level offices in Washington.”

Last year Scott Jennings, a Republican political operative and public relations professional, emceed the Fancy Farm Picnic. Jennings followed Kentucky Sports Radio host Matt Jones who emceed the event in 2015. Jones considered running for office as a Democrat, but was booked into the position as a media commentator.

Organizers seek to rotate the master of ceremonies during the political speaking between Republican, Democrat and unbiased. Wilson said they will announce this year’s emcee in June, but give the rotation the speaker this year would likely be leaning on the left end of the spectrum. However, organizers have not yet considered who that person will be.

Nick Storm

Nick Storm is the Anchor and Managing Editor of Pure Politics available exclusively on Spectrum News. Pure Politics is the only nightly program dedicated to Kentucky politics. Nick covers all of the political heavyweights and his investigative work brings to light issues that might otherwise go unnoticed, like his coverage of the backlog of DNA rape kits waiting to be tested in Kentucky. Nick is also working on a feature length bio documentary Outlaw Poet: A documentary on Ron Whitehead. Pure Politics airs weeknight at 7 and 11:30 on Spectrum News. Follow Nick on Twitter @NStorm_Politics. Nick can be reached at 502-792-1107 or nicholas.storm@charter.com.

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