McConnell announces re-elect campaign at Fancy Farm picnic

U.S. Senate Leader Mitch McConnell listens to the speeches Saturday, August 4, 2018, during the Fancy Farm Picnic in Fancy Farm, Ky. Photo by John Flavell

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky's premiere political event — the campaign speeches before raucous partisans at the Fancy Farm picnic — will be silenced this year amid the coronavirus pandemic.

This year’s 140th picnic has been scaled back and the Aug. 1 political speeches were canceled, according to the event's organizers in the Graves County community of Fancy Farm. The decision was dictated by the pandemic, said Mark Wilson, chairman of the picnic’s political speaking.

“It’s definitely a sign of the times for 2020," he said Thursday. “It was a major decision that was made by our picnic committee. ... The deciding factor as to why it was canceled, it was the personal safety of us as organizers and the personal safety of the guests and the media and everybody.”

The political speaking beneath the shaded pavilion at St. Jerome’s Parish in far western Kentucky has become a rite of passage for statewide candidates and is the traditional start of the fall campaign season in the Bluegrass State. Candidates stand before shouting and taunting partisans from the other side to make their case. The speeches are broadcast on statewide television.

This year's event would have hosted a showdown between Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his Democratic opponent, who still isn't known. Democratic rivals Amy McGrath and Charles Booker are awaiting the final count of absentee ballots after Tuesday's primary.

Some traditions will go on at the picnic.

For barbecue fans, the picnic will still feature pork and mutton sold by the pound, the Rev. Darrell Venters of St. Jerome Catholic Church said in a Facebook post Wednesday night.

An online and in-person raffle will still take place. But the political speaking won't take place, he said. And no other booths or stands will be open.

“I know this is a disappointment to some and comes as a relief to others," Venters said. “However, taking into consideration all the factors, I believe it is the best route to take at this time."

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