(Fancy Farm, KY) – On this quiet Sunday afternoon, Mark Wilson, chair of the political stump speaking that has made the Fancy Farm Picnic famous, surveyed the tons of concrete and brick that make up the new pavilion and proudly pronounced, “Now this is my baby.”
And proud he should be. The newly designed stage is wider, longer and sturdier than the one it replaced. The audience area under roof has expanded and all concrete, allowing ample space for the reporters, television cameras and crews There's room for the crowds expected to descend on this small town that will be present on August 2, 2014. That’s when incumbent Senator Mitch McConnell and challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes go head to head for the first time in a race that has been getting steadily more acrimonious. They have been on the same stage for past events but never as opponents.
Wilson said that there is more room on the stage for dignitary seating.
And dignitaries there will be. Besides the politicians, other special guests are expected. Kentucky Supreme Court Justice Bill Cunningham will serve as moderator of the political speaking. Archbishop Kurtz is coming from Louisville. Archbishop Kurtz now serves as President of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops. Returning this year is Bishop Medley from Owensboro. Representatives of the National Register of Historic Places will be coming to make a presentation to one of their newest historic places – St. Jerome’s Catholic Complex.
The newly designed area is symbolic of Southern hospitality- porch rails, white fans, columns and clapboard details on the overhang. The stage sports a larger speaking area. The steps in front are concrete and the ramp in back is now concrete, replacing the wooden steps and ramps.
The venue has come light years from the stump that politicians once stood on to address crowds of picnickers. Father Venters assured us that the picnic came first, then the speaking. When primaries were held in October, one of the last great gatherings of potential voters was the Fancy Farm Picnic.
The stump gave way to two flatbeds side by side. The flatbeds gave way to a wooden platform which now cedes the stage to the new concrete and brick structure. The stump was struck by lightning back in 1974. A gravestone marks the spot.
Wilson pointed out the new logo adorning the white cupola. He said that when one thinks of St. Jerome’s Parish, the distinctive spires of the church come to mind. The work of creating the new space was shared among several parish committees.
It is a new look and locals in their golf carts are coming to visit. Three local students, Rylee Carrico, Cameron Kennemore and Peyton Carrico posed on the speaker’s platform. Only time will tell if one or all of them will someday stand as a candidate on this very stage.