A former Kentucky elected official who served as both secretary of state and state auditor will emcee this year’s Fancy Farm Picnic in Graves County, known for charged speeches and zingers from politicians across the state. Picnic organizers are planning for a more normal event after last year’s gathering was scaled down due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Bob Babbage of Lexington in a statement Monday said he was “humbled and honored” to be this year’s emcee for the picnic, planned for August 7. The annual picnic has served as a fundraiser for St. Jerome’s Catholic Church and school, with the tradition dating back to the 19th century.
“There’s nothing quite like this anywhere. It’s a Kentucky political family reunion with a whole lot of would-be cousins showing up to check a box on their political bucket list,” Babbage said.
Babbage served as Kentucky auditor from 1988 to 1992, and served as the secretary of state from 1992 to 1996. Babbage is now a managing partner at Babbage Cofounder, a leading lobbying firm in Kentucky and Washington, D.C. According to a release from Fancy Farm picnic organizers, Babbage is the grandson of former Kentucky Governor Keen Johnson, who spoke at the Fancy Farm Picnic in the mid-20th century.
Fancy Farm Picnic chair Steven Elder said organizers are planning for a more normal gathering with barbeque, bingo, and speeches. He said he’s unsure if the state’s mask mandate for outdoor events with more than 1,000 people will affect the picnic, but he’s “cautiously optimistic” that a normal gathering will happen as planned.
“We are certainly following the CDC guidelines and the governor’s recommendations, but want to have a safe picnic, but plan to have a scaled back version much like last year if it requires us to do so,” Elder said. “We’re really excited, but you know, could the rug be pulled out from under us, and we have to do the right thing? Certainly.”
Elder said he hoped Kentuckians will continue to receive the COVID-19 vaccine so that future events such as the Fancy Farm picnic can be normal.
(This story first ran on WKMS, the public radio station at Murray State University.)