Thanks to its lineup of political speakers - including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes - the 134th Fancy Farm Picnic is expected to draw one of the biggest crowds in its long history.
For many, however, it's still all about the food.
This year's picnic will feature 20,000 pounds of barbecue and 10,000 pounds of mutton, 750 pounds of potato salad, 700 pounds of coleslaw, burgers, hot dogs, pies, cakes, ice cream and an impressive variety of Fancy Farm homegrown vegetables. The picnic will also offer fried chicken.
"It is really good, I tell you," said Linda Spalding, co-chairwoman of the pie table. "It'll beat the Colonel all to pieces."
Spalding and co-chairwoman Joyce Wilson said that every year they meet picnic-goers who miss out on the fried chicken because they simply don't know it's offered.
While the barbecue, burger and hot dog vendors are easy to spot on the picnic field, the chicken is one of many items offered as part of an all-you-can-eat, $15 meal served in the Knights of Columbus Hall that stands behind the newly remodeled speaking pavilion.
The barbecue will go on sale by the pound at 8 a.m. Saturday, followed by the official start of the picnic at 10. Once the KC Hall opens at 11, crews will serve food continuously into the evening hours.
Wilson and Spalding recommend getting to the hall early for the best, freshest vegetables, including about 140 gallons of sweet corn picked, shucked, and cut off the cob from local gardens. They also highly recommend the coconut, pecan and chess pies, though they'll serve a variety of pies and cakes to suit anyone's tastes, including those requiring sugar-free options.
"When you go in there and start slicing those pies, everything looks so good," Wilson said. "But by the time I get through with my shift I don't even want to see pie. Until the next morning. That's when I would like a piece of pie!"
Father Darrell Venters of St. Jerome Catholic Church will lead Mass at the picnic grounds at 7 a.m. Friday, after which he will bless the 20,000 pounds of meat. Then the barbecuing will begin.
When asked how his barbecue compares to others', Eddy Carrico was quick with his reply.
"It's very seldom I'll eat barbecue anywhere else," he said. "I don't particularly care for anyone else's but that's just my opinion, and you know what opinions are like."
Carrico is the oldest living of the Carrico brothers who have been manning the massive barbecue pits for 35 years, continuing his family's longstanding role at the picnic.
Once the meat is blessed, he said, it will take about 50 people to put it on the football field-length stretch of pits. They will salt it, "mop" it with Carrico's homemade, vinegar-based barbecue sauce, and let the heat from the hickory wood fire work its magic.
They place the mutton bone side down, the pork rind side down, and they never turn it, Carrico said. They found over the years that turning tears the meat apart too much once it gets tender. The Carrico and Hobbs families will stay with the meat through the night until it's ready for the masses that will descend on Fancy Farm on Saturday morning.
"We're not prejudiced," Wilson said, "But we really do have the best barbecue around. Bar none. And fried chicken!"
While the pork and mutton is still barbecuing Friday night, a ï¬sh fry will be held in the KC Hall following the St. Jerome One Mile Classic and Fancy Farm Fun Run 5K. The fish fry and runs are open to all. For more information visit http://www.fancyfarm.net/.
Contact Genevieve Postlethwait, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8651 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.