Political speaking chair Mark Wilson has been finding ringmasters for the Picnic for many years.
(Fancy Farm, KY) This year, on the first Saturday of August, one of the country's best known political events will be emceed by the nation's youngest Statewide elected official. Kentucky Commissioner of Agriculture Ryan Quarles will act as ringmaster for the 138th annual St. Jerome Catholic Church Picnic's political speaking.
Over the years, the picnic has become a must attend event for political watchers from around the state and nation and features speakers from both parties running for national, state and local offices.
"A love of both politics and agriculture run deep in West Kentucky," said Mark Wilson, chair of the political speaking at the picnic. "Commissioner Quarles shares our region's passion for both and we are excited for him to emcee this year's political speaking."
At right, Senator Mitch McConnell at the podium at the Fancy Farm Picnic political speaking. McConnell is a past master of the zinger. His cancellation of August vacation for the US Senate may keep him in D. C. this year.
Keeping with tradition, invitations to speak at this year's picnic will be extended to current constitutional office holders, both US Senators and the local U.S. Representative and local candidates for State House and State Senate.
"Growing up a farm kid in Kentucky, you always hear about the Fancy Farm picnic," said Commissioner Quarles. "It was the fulfillment of a dream when I got the opportunity to take the stage for the first time in 2015 as a candidate but I never imagined I'd have the chance to act as the emcee. It's truly an honor to assume a role so many of the greats in Kentucky's storied political history have filled before me."
Shown at left, Ag Commissioner visited Mayfield to discuss efforts to address food insecurity.
Quarles, a Republican from Scott County, was first elected as Commissioner of Agriculture in 2015. At 32 years old at the time, he was the youngest statewide elected official in the United States, a distinction he still holds today.
Before becoming Ag Commissioner, Quarles served 3 terms in the Kentucky State House, representing parts of Scott, Owen and Fayette County and the Quarles family has farmed in Central Kentucky for more than 7 generations. He holds undergraduate, graduate and law degrees from the University of Kentucky, a Masters from Harvard and recently graduated from Vanderbilt with a doctorate in Higher Education Leadership.
"We may still cook our pork and mutton the old-fashioned way but we're excited for Commissioner Quarles to be the first millennial to emcee the picnic's political speaking, remarked Wilson. "A picnic doesn't reach its 138th year, without embracing the changing times."
The Fancy Farm Picnic, which serves as a charitable fundraiser for the sponsor, St. Jerome Catholic Church, has quickly transformed into Kentucky's inaugural event for the statewide fall political season.
Some of the nation's most prominent politicians have addressed the crowds from the speakers' stand, including U.S. Vice-President Alben W. Barkley, former Governor and U.S. Senator A.B. "Happy" Chandler, Vice-President Al Gore and Vice-Presidential candidate Lloyd Bentson, and U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. The picnic, also known as the world's largest one day barbecue, annually attracts over 10,000 visitors each year.