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Fancy Farm organizers confirm early list of speakers for western Ky. political picnic

Lily Burris

With just under a month to go, a clearer picture of what the 144th edition of the Fancy Farm Picnic in far western Kentucky will look like is coming into focus.

Though the mutton has yet to be chopped, event organizers released on Wednesday a list of the confirmed speakers for the traditional Graves County gathering.

So far, the list nine includes speakers for the Aug. 3 picnic. Among them are local, state and federal officials as well as candidates in upcoming races, many of them Republicans:

  • Republican U.S. Congressman James Comer
  • Kentucky’s Republican Attorney General Russell Coleman
  • Kentucky’s Republican Commissioner of Agriculture Jonathan Shell
  • Kentucky State Sen. Jason Howell, a Murray Republican
  • Outgoing Kentucky State Rep. Richard Heath, a Mayfield Republican
  • Representative Elect Kim Holloway, who defeated Heath in the Kentucky GOP Primary Election this May
  • GOP Kentucky State Rep. Suzanne Miles of Owensboro
  • Democratic Kentucky State Rep. Cherlynn Stevenson of Lexington
  • Kentucky Court of Appeals Judge Lisa Payne Jones

The pending invitations listed include Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear and Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman, as well as U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell and U.S. Sen. Rand Paul.
Steven Elder, the event’s political chairman, confirmed that invites have also been extended to Erin Marshall – a Frankfort Democrat set to face off in a race with Comer later this year – as well as other high-ranking state officials and candidates.

A note at the bottom of the list of invited and confirmed speakers indicates that Elder is “still in discussion with surrogates” for U.S. presidential campaigns to potentially appear at the event in advance of the November election.

“The Picnic is right around the corner,” Elder said in the email to media announcing the speaker list. “Of course with this being a hot political year, things can change quickly – especially surrounding Gov. Beshear's recent national spotlight and the Presidential campaigns wanting to get their message out.”

Though national politics are expected to loom large over the event, one state issue will be a specific focus for some speakers.

Miles and Stevenson, according to the list, are expected to focus their remarks on the school choice amendment set to be before Kentucky’s voters in November. Miles sponsored the bill that led to the prospective amendment, which would allow public dollars to flow to private schools. Stevenson has been a vocal opponent of the legislation, saying Democrats must “respond loud and clear in November that public taxpayer dollars do not belong in private schools.”

Regardless of who shows up, it’ll be up to a Lexington Roman Catholic priest to keep things in order at the usually rowdy political picnic. Father Jim Sichko, who preaches in Kentucky and gives motivational speeches internationally, was named emcee of this year’s picnic in May.

A native of western Kentucky, Operle earned his bachelor's degree in integrated strategic communications from the University of Kentucky in 2014. Operle spent five years working for Paxton Media/The Paducah Sun as a reporter and editor. In addition to his work in the news industry, Operle is a passionate movie lover and concertgoer.
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