Graves County, KY – Last Monday, citing difficulty raising campaign cash, U.S. Sen. Jim Bunning announced he would not seek a third term. His withdrawal leaves next year's Senate race wide open, with at least seven people already vying for the post. On Saturday, all seven made their way to a little farming community in far Western Kentucky, not far from the Mississippi River.
"On behalf of the Fancy Farm Picnic committee and the St. Jerome Catholic Parish, I would like to welcome all of you to the 129th Fancy Farm Picnic political event," picnic organizer Mark Wilson told the crowd.
With no elections in Kentucky this year, the crowd was a bit thinner than usual, but blue skies and cool temperatures greeted those who turned out.
"Are you ready for some politics!" shouted Master of Ceremonies Al Cross.
After Cross kicked off the political speaking, Lt. Gov. Daniel Mongiardo wasted no time lighting into Attorney General Jack Conway, who's considered the Democratic frontrunner in the Senate campaign.
"Now, I may be a doctor and lieutenant governor, but I certainly wasn't born with a silver spoon in my mouth," said Mongiardo. "In the Senate I'm going to stand up and fight for the people who eat barbeque with a fork, not caviar with a silver spoon."
Conway fired back, saying Mongiardo may be an ear, nose and throat doctor, but "You've misdiagnosed me."
"And you all can holler all you want at me," said Conway. "And I can hear you, but just like Wendell used to say, You know what, go ahead and chew on my hide. Chew on it, it only grows back tougher.' And I've been around a while and you're looking at one tough son of a bitch."
Next up was Secretary of State Trey Grayson, the Republican frontrunner in the Senate campaign. Making his eighth appearance at Fancy Farm, Grayson spent most of his five minutes attacking Democrats in Washington.
"It's clear we need a real check and balance," Grayson told the crowd. "I am confident that we are going to keep this seat in conservative hands next November because Kentucky knows better!"
Making his first appearance at Fancy Farm was Bowling Green eye surgeon Rand Paul, who's also seeking the Republican Senate nomination. As he was promising to never vote for a federal budget that's not balanced, Paul suffered the same fate as Jack Conway, who's speech also exceeded the five-minute limit.
"I pledge on any appropriation bill, to reduce it by whatever percentage it needs to be reduced by to balance the budget," said Paul. "If we're 20-percent over budget, I will vote to reduce and vote to " (Loud music begins)
Three other political novices seeking the Senate seat - Democrats Darlene Fitzgerald Price and Maurice Sweeney, and Republican Bill Johnson - also got their five minutes each in the spotlight, but up the hill at the bingo hall, Sandy Reed of Mayfield was ignoring it all.
"No, I don't go back there," said Reed.
"You don't want to hear what the politicians have to say?" asked McVeigh.
"Well, I hear enough of it on TV and radio," said Reed. "So, I come down here to play bingo and eat barbeque!"
So do hundreds of other people who annually attend the picnic at St. Jerome Parish. For them it's a homecoming, a chance to catch up on family and friends, and maybe even get lucky and win a car! But whether you come for the barbeque, the politics, the bingo, the communal spirit, or all of the above chances are, if you attend at least one Fancy Farm Picnic...at some point, you'll be back.