A Fancy Farm gallery: Stump speaking and heckling. A Kentucky tradition is renewed.

By: - August 6, 2023 5:50 am

A raucous crowd greets the speakers at the 143rd Fancy Farm Picnic on Saturday, Aug. 5, 2023. (Kentucky Lantern photo by Austin Anthony)

The 143rd Fancy Farm Picnic — a feast for connoisseurs of barbecue and Kentucky politics — is in the history books.

After a day of colorful personal interactions with voters and each other, Gov. Andy Beshear and Attorney General Daniel Cameron must now return their attentions to raising vast sums of money to pay for the high-price media campaigns that will dominate Kentucky politics until Nov. 7.

National interest is intense in Kentucky’s gubernatorial race. One of three this year and the most competitive by far, it’s seen as a bellwether of next year’s presidential election.

Voters who on Saturday got to hear directly from candidates in person or on KET’s broadcast can expect to now be inundated with messaging from shadowy independent actors with shadowy motives.

It makes all the face-to-face hollering, hyperbole and insults hurled at Fancy Farm feel downright refreshing — even to a jaded old journalist like me. People who have migrated into social media echo chambers rubbed elbows and maybe even caught each other’s eye.

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, who said it was his 28th appearance at the picnic, obliquely addressed concerns about his health at a GOP breakfast by vowing he would make more trips to Fancy Farm. McConnell then gave a speech at the main event in which he good-humoredly recounted his 1996 defeat of Gov. Andy Beshear’s father, Steve Beshear, in a U.S. Senate race. The elder Beshear went on to become a two-term governor.

None of the politicians on stage mentioned former President Donald Trump, although Cameron has his endorsement and Trump was the region’s overwhelming favorite in 2020. By not touting Trump’s endorsement, Cameron might have been deferring to his mentor, McConnell, who has said Trump, facing three criminal indictments, is bad for the Republican Party. It will be interesting to see how — or if — Trump figures into Kentucky’s election this year.

What will compel Kentucky voters — nationalized issues or more Kentucky-based concerns?

This was the Lantern’s first Fancy Farm foray — we will celebrate our first anniversary at the end of November — and this is our first time covering a governor’s race, though it won’t be our last.  Let us know what you’d like to read about the upcoming election. My email address is at the bottom of this page.

And hope you enjoy the photo gallery by Austin Anthony.

The speaking: Fancy Farm ’23


Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Jamie Lucke
Jamie Lucke

Jamie Lucke has more than 40 years of experience as a journalist. Her editorials for the Lexington Herald-Leader won Walker Stone, Sigma Delta Chi and Green Eyeshade awards. She is a graduate of the University of Kentucky.