In her youth, West Kentucky native and editor of the Ballard County Weekly, Anita Bugg's view of the Picnic was dancing and hanging out. For many locals, it's still a chance to eat, dance, and listen to good music, win a car or a prize in the bingo hall or echoing CNHI reporter Ronnie Ellis’ recently wrote “The Kentucky Derby of Politics.” Fancy Farm is the blind men’s elephant. It all depends on where you stand whether it’s a party, a homecoming festival, a religious celebration or a political brouhaha.
For residents of this unincorporated Graves County community, Fancy Farm is simply their town. The predominantly Catholic community with 600 families in St. Jerome’s Parish has no police, no mayor, no city government. Security is provided by the Graves County Sheriff. Fire protection comes from the local volunteer fire department. Taxes are collected in Mayfield, the county seat.
For a town with no formal government, Fancy Farm boasts amenities not available in many incorporated towns. Fancy Farm has a new elementary school opening this week. The old school buildings were rented to the Graves County School District by St. Jerome’s. Now that the new school is open, big plans and hopes are in the works for the old buildings. Father Venters said there will be religion classes for youth, a gymnasium, cafeteria and meeting spaces. The Parish hopes to get a wellness center in place for residents who now have to drive to Mayfield.
St. Jerome’s has created green spaces around the picnic area, expanded the venues from grassy open areas to covered pavilions. The Knights of Columbus’ new building houses their fish fry and hosts the indoor gift shop and dining area. The Church sponsors the senior citizen center and donated the land for the assisted living apartments.
The town has a branch of First Community Bank of Clinton, a barber shop, restaurant, senior citizen center that provides meals on wheels. There’s a farm supply/grocery store/hardware store that has something for everyone – including those who come to shop by horse and buggy. The proprietor of Hobb’s Home Center told me that the Amish community began growing about ten years ago. Now he enjoys their business. “They are nice people,” he said.
The Dollar Store came to Fancy Farm four months ago. The brand new store has extensive grocery selections, clothing and cleaning supplies.
The community may be surrounded by farms, but farmers make up only a tiny percentage of St. Jerome’s Parish. Father Venters said he walks morning and evening and the commuters go out in the morning and come back every evening.
For three hundred sixty three days in a year, Fancy Farm is more than a picnic, more than the Kentucky Derby of Politics. It’s home.