Newspaper article Evansville Courier & Press (2007-Current)

Fancy Farm Lives Up to Its Reputation

Newspaper article Evansville Courier & Press (2007-Current)

Fancy Farm Lives Up to Its Reputation

Article excerpt

I have heard about the Fancy Farm barbecue for several years on Western Kentucky Public Radio and have wanted to see what all the commotion was about. This year, a friend and I decided to witness what is regularly billed as the "most important political meeting of the election year in Kentucky" is really all about. Fancy Farm is in far southwestern Kentucky in a region called the Jackson Purchase. An eight-county rural area bounded by the Ohio, Mississippi and Tennessee rivers, it was not part of the state of Kentucky at the time of statehood in 1792. It became a part of the state when it was purchased from the Chickasaw Indians in 1818 by then-President Andrew Jackson.

Considered amid the most "southern" counties in Kentucky, the two-day event is an annual fundraiser for the St. Jerome Catholic parish within the small town. Marking its 133rd anniversary, Fancy Farm has a stellar reputation for great food, raucous political speeches, bingo, games and other events for the entire family. This year was no exception.

While the "Purchase" is a long way from Washington, D. C., the presence of C-SPAN cameras, Kentucky Educational Television and others made the event difficult to distinguish from a major political meeting in the nation's Capitol. The main topic was the hotly contested Kentucky Senate race in 2014.

According to the Almanac of American Politics by authors Michael Barone and Chuck McCutcheon, "Kentucky has seen hearty, though lopsided, political competition, with most of the 120 counties still voting in many recent elections as they did in the Civil War era. The eastern mountains were pro-Union and remain Republican, except for the counties where coal miners were organized by the United Mine Workers in the 1930s. The Bluegrass region and the western end of the state were slaveholding territories and voted Democratic. Louisville, with many German immigrants, was an antislavery town and for years flirted with Republicans, but the city and surrounding Jefferson County has been conspicuously more Democratic than the state as a whole over the last decade."

The authors state that for more than 50 years there existed almost a two-party system within the Democratic Party, with factions going back to the primary battle of 1938 between former Senate Majority Leader Alben Barkley and Gov. A. B. "Happy" Chandler, who went on to become a senator and later the commissioner of Major League Baseball.

In recent years, however, the political divisions have been more along party lines largely due to the first election of Sen. Mitch McConnell in 1984. McConnell, who has emerged as a serious power broker in the Senate, went on to help engineer state Senate majorities in 1994 and 1996, which have held ever since.

In presidential races, Kentucky was long a Democratic stronghold, with Bill Clinton carrying the state twice, but the fortunes reversed substantially with George W. …

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