By Chris YuMichael Bradford
FANCY FARM, KY — From Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, to Gov. Matt Bevin, to Attorney General Andy Beshear — a lineup of political heavyweights is set to speak at this year’s Fancy Farm Picnic. With big names come big crowds, so several law enforcement agencies are working together to ensure that everyone will be safe.
The annual event serves as a charitable fundraiser for its sponsor, St. Jerome Catholic Church. It’s a chance for politicians — both incumbents and their challengers — to talk about their platforms and take verbal jabs at each other on stage, in front of cheering supporters and jeering detractors. Here is the list of confirmed speakers for this year’s event, which is set for Aug. 3.
The picnic is also famous for serving 19,500 pounds of barbecue each year. In fact, the event had once held the record for being the largest one-day picnic and barbecue in the Guinness Book of World Records.
With the picnic attracting thousands of people each year, safety is a top priority. Although this year’s event is still days away, the Graves County Sheriff’s Office is already preparing.
“We’ve met with Fancy Farm Picnic committee, we’ve met with the safety committee. We’ve had meetings with the Kentucky State Police and the county’s emergency management director, the Fancy Farm Fire Department, and there are plans to have some additional meetings this week,” said Sheriff Jon Hayden.
Hayden said the sheriff’s office will have a “very large presence” at the picnic. So will Kentucky State Police.
“We will have probably approximately a minimum of 20 troopers at a time on site,” said Kentucky State Police Trooper Bryan Luckett.
Luckett said uniformed and plainclothes troopers at the event, as well as K-9 units. In addition, KSP will send a mobile command center with dispatchers inside. Troopers will also help with traffic control.
“People are going to have disagreements and there are debates going on there, but we do hope to keep them within reason,” said Luckett.
Hayden said the Mayfield Police Department will have officers at the event as well. Once the event draws closer, Hayden will evaluate their manpower and may request assistance from other sheriff’s offices if necessary.
“There’s a whole array of precautions that we take, many of which for security purposes we don’t discuss. But things are different. The world has changed. We’re very aware of the threat to violence and things that have occurred across the country,” said Hayden. “And we understand that this crowd is going to draw a lot of people. But, in conjunction with other law enforcement agencies, we’re going to have a very strong police presence there at Fancy Farm to keep everybody safe.”
“It’s kind of like a reunion, if you will. People that they grew up with, people they went to school with, family members, extended family members, so it’s a very enjoyable time for people in our area,” said Hayden. “And there’s a lot of people that come from outside of our immediate area to the picnic.”
Hayden said there will also be ambulances on site and there has been discussion about having a cooling station as well.