First impressions from a Fancy Farm rookie

08/06/2012 07:23 AM

(Editor’s note: Of the Pure Politics team that covered the weekend worth of Fancy Farm -related events, two were going for the first time. These are their stories.)

With our 2005 Ford Taurus — dubbed the “Battle Wagon” — loaded up with cameras, tapes and tripods, Jacqueline Pitts and I embarked on the 300-mile trip to Fancy Farm on Friday.

I was already sweating within minutes of getting out of the car to cover the first event. My blood must be too thick for this humidity.

Democratic state Rep. Mike Cherry’s garden party at his Princeton home was the first stop. Interviews are conducted, and the Democratic officials in attendance try out their speeches on the friendly crowd.

State Treasurer Todd Hollenbach delivered a speech he wouldn’t give at the Fancy Farm picnic – not because he’s not been asked. He opted not to take the podium. The speech, which by my count he delivered three times at different events over the two days of events, drew little amusement from the crowds despite the attempted jokes. (He aimed his barbs at Mitt Romney for not releasing tax returns and U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell for his personal wealth after serving in the U.S. Senate since 1985.)

I was sweat soaked after the Garden Party, but it was on to the Democratic Bean Supper in Kentucky Dam Village, where the air conditioning was kicking. About 200 Democrats were there, but I understood that’s a smaller than it has been in recent years. The big surprise of the night was when U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler, D-Versailles, arrives at the party unannounced in a polo shirt and shorts. It was his first time at Fancy Farm in years.

Several hours later – after what felt like every Democrat in the state spoke, the evening draws to a close.

Then, we did the same thing again early the next morning at the Republican breakfast in Graves County.

Then, finally it was time for the main event. I was warned it was hot. My under shirt began to cling to my flesh upon stepping out of the Battle Wagon and the beads of sweat on my forehead became rivers.

I talked with Agriculture Commissioner Jamie Comer who told me the trick is a super absorbent undershirt – he said he was wearing one at the time – and it appeared to work.

Jacqueline, Don Weber, and I detoured to the Knights of Columbus BBQ lunch where Ryan Alessi promised I’d find “vegetables as big as your head.” They were delicious, however, normal sized tomatoes and green beans. The star of the meal was the meat and as I looked plate to plate my eyes fell upon overloaded mutton and cascades of pork.

“I line the bottom of my plate with tomatoes, see, and then I pile on the mutton and drench it in barbeque sauce,” I overheard a man tell his friend. And indeed there was a mountain of meat upon his plate.

I too overloaded my plate with meats, but also left space for potato salad, coleslaw, green beans, and some of the best tomatoes I’ve ever tasted.

As we passed barbeque sauce and exchanged political insights at the table, an older gentleman in a cut off t-shirt and golden toothed necklace suggested that organizers should change the name of the event from, “Fancy Farm to Fantasy Farm.”

Then it was time for the main event. Under a tin roof, the partisans came to howl at one another in front of reporters representing all reaches of Kentucky. There were 11 men and 2 women who had the courage to stand before the crowds.

Yes, some of the speeches had amusing one-liners. But easily the most amusing part of Fancy Farm was watching how the crowd will react to the next jab. Emotions danced across the faces of those watching from excitement to shock, boredom to laughter. And even in a year without a statewide race in Kentucky, Fancy Farm provides an outlet for political junkies who just want to let off some steam and scream at their elected leaders.


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