FANCY FARM - The presence of a contender in one of the most closely watched races of the fall 2014 elections nationally may drive crowd numbers to record levels for this year's Fancy Farm Picnic in Graves County.
Mark Wilson, picnic chairman, said with the attention generated by the Kentucky U.S. Senate battle between Republican incumbent Mitch McConnell and Democratic challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes, expectations are for between 15,000 and 20,000 people to witness the 134th renewal of the political speaking portion of this event Aug. 2. That would rival 1992 when then Tennessee U.S. Sen. Al Gore visited Fancy Farm as eventual President Bill Clinton's vice presidential running mate.
"We've actually had three times that come to mind of attracting big crowds. We had (former Alabama governor and presidential candidate) George Wallace in the '70s and (Texas Sen.) Lloyd Bentsen and Gore back to back as vice presidential candidates, but I'd say when Gore was here that was the biggest, between 15,000 and 20,000," Wilson said. "We're expecting a lot of the same things we had then for this year with many members of the national media. It's old hat for us, though. I say bring it on!"
Wilson made those comments on the day the McConnell campaign confirmed that the five-time senator, who also serves as Senate minority leader, will speak during the picnic.
In preparation for the onslaught, the venue on the grounds of St. Jerome Catholic Church has undergone a major renovation. Wilson said the pavilion, featuring a roof enclosure the past 20 years, now offers a red-brick porch with white railing, columns and ceiling fans.