An unmatched Kentucky tradition

SONY DSCFancy Farm Picnic draws thousands each year

By Patrick Smith

Each year, on the first Saturday in August, people visit Fancy Farm, Kentucky, for a church picnic.
But this isn’t a normal church picnic where attendees bring a dish to pass and old-timers talk about the weather. This is the Fancy Farm Picnic — complete with more than 10,000 people, 18,000 pounds of barbecued pork and mutton, rows and rows of carnival-style games and political stump speeches from candidates who, over the years, have vied for every major office in the Bluegrass State. Even presidential candidates have stopped by to take part in the revered Kentucky tradition. And, all of this is hosted by a town of fewer than 500 people.

For anyone who hasn’t experienced Kentucky weather in August, the temperatures often climb into the 90s by midday, and the humidity is thick enough to make any clothing other than what’s vitally important seem gratuitous. But the weather doesn’t stop people from attending by the thousands — nor do the miles of parked cars or the smell of hickory wood smoke so heavy that it forms a haze over the picnic grounds. The allure of the picnic seems to draw more people in each year.

Photo courtesy of Cynthia Elder

Photo courtesy of Cynthia Elder

Though the picnic has always been a notable event, locals attribute the growth to the added attention the media has given the event in recent years. Local television stations and newspapers often feature reports about what to expect leading up to the event each year. And in the days and weeks that follow the event, headlines featuring the words “Fancy Farm” will regularly grace publications like The New York Times and The Washington Post. National television stations like MSNBC provide live reports, while C-SPAN broadcasts the political speeches live. Even Food Network has featured the picnic’s home-cooked, hearty fare.

This year’s event will be the 135th Fancy Farm Picnic, and as always, there will be free admission and free parking.


Photo courtesy of River Birch Productions © 2014

Photo courtesy of River Birch Productions © 2014

Those familiar with the raucous infield crowds of the Kentucky Derby will find some similarities during the political speeches given at Fancy Farm. The atmosphere features politicians trading jabs, while in-state supporters and opponents, who arrive by the busload from as far away as Lexington, bicker back and forth so loudly that it’s difficult to hear the candidate’s speech. They’ll also heckle the candidates — something some hopefuls have learned to deal with, but making it difficult for others to stay on point.

Photo courtesy of River Birch Productions © 2009

Photo courtesy of River Birch Productions © 2009

In the political arena, it’s an event so big, national political action committees create teaser video trailers for the speeches that will be given at the event by their candidates, like when Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) was challenged by Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Grimes in 2014. It’s also inspired local businesswoman Cynthia Elder to write a book, “The Politics of Fancy Farm,” which she hopes to have completed in time for this year’s event.

During the event, Democrats will line their tents with blue yard signs, while GOP supporters do the same with red signs, leaving a walking path just a

Photo courtesy of River Birch Productions © 2013

Photo courtesy of River Birch Productions © 2013

But the event hasn’t always been so politically charged. A.B. “Happy” Chandler is often credited with the picnic’s transition from a local homecoming event to a stage for political speeches while he was running for Lieutenant Governor in 1931. Over the years, Vice Presidents Alben W. Barkley and Al Gore, U.S. Senators Jim Bunning and Rand Paul and U.S. presidential candidate George C. Wallace have spoken at Fancy Farm.


Photo courtesy of Cynthia Elder

Photo courtesy of Cynthia Elder

The picnic’s traditions are maintained by families that have held volunteer jobs for generations. On Friday morning, meat is unloaded from a box truck, blessed by a Catholic priest, and thrown onto two rows of fiery barbecue pits that go on for hundreds of feet. It’s monitored through the day and night by volunteers, before another group of volunteers arrives at 6 a.m. to begin deboning, weighing and preparing the meat in styrofoam containers. Never mind the simple presentation, the barbecue is cooked so well, hungry patrons stand in line 20-persons-deep to fork over their cash at 7 a.m. — three hours before the picnic formally starts.

Officially named the “World’s Largest Picnic” in 1985 by the Guinness Book of World Records, there’s more than just barbecued pork to eat. The waist-high black chalkboard menu for the 2013 picnic listed 1,900 pounds of chicken, 1,400 pounds of potato salad, 410 pounds of lima beans, 258 pounds of green beans, 225 pounds of peas and 193 gallons of corn. They sell out every year.


Photo courtesy of River Birch Productions © 2010

Photo courtesy of River Birch Productions © 2010

While the children’s games are held under small, pop-up tents and steel-beamed buildings, and the political speaking takes place at its own open-air pavilion with a permanent stage. The largest building houses hundreds of feet of picnic tables, lined with people playing bingo. Every hour or so, participants play a new card for a big prize, such as a flat-screen television, or tickets to see the St. Louis Cardinals or Kentucky basketball.

Then there’s the raffle. Each year, picnic organizers give away a vehicle. This year, same as 2014, they’ll raffle a brand-new four-door Jeep Wrangler hard top. Winning the biggest prize can be as cheap as $5, and you don’t have to be present to win.

Photo courtesy of River Birch Productions © 2010

Photo courtesy of River Birch Productions © 2010

For a more social gathering without the political pressure, the Knights of Columbus Hall is the place for fellowship on Friday night. A fish fry and music follow the 5K walk/race, and the endless preparations for the picnic begin in February. Family members depend on relatives to drive in and fly in from places like California, Texas, Minnesota, Virginia and New Jersey just to see friends and volunteer for the jobs their families have held for decades.

The bands continue to play on Saturday, and the K of C Hall holds a continuous home-cooked meal at its air-conditioned facility. The money raised — usually about $200,000 dollars gross — goes to St. Jerome Catholic Church, a parish of about 650 people, and the Diocese of Owensboro, Kentucky.

And no matter what brings visitors to the Fancy Farm Picnic — the politics, the food, the games or fellowship — longtime picnickers don’t plan on missing it anytime soon. But if they do, at least they know it will be the only church picnic featured the next day in The New York Times.

If you go
The 2015 Fancy Farm Picnic will take place on Aug. 1.
The political speaking portion of the event will be emceed by Matt Jones of Kentucky Sports Radio.


Icehouse Gallery offers art appreciation and education for the whole community

Photos courtesy of Lynn Bartlett.

Photos courtesy of Lynn Bartlett.

By Patrick Smith

For 25 years, the Icehouse Gallery and the Mayfield-Graves County Art Guild have filled a void in the community by highlighting local art and culture.

Though the historic icehouse building, which houses the gallery, once faced destruction, it has since become a community gallery, providing a stage for arts events and a resource for students.

Managed by the Mayfield-Graves County Art Guild, the Icehouse Gallery presents visitors with a rare opportunity in a small, rural area. The gallery offers events featuring arts education and art appreciation, as well as the chance to purchase unique handmade gifts, such as paintings, sculptures and pottery.

“We sell art, show art and teach art,” says Ric Watson, gallery director. “If someone wants to learn more, we’re the place in town to do it. They can’t really get that from anywhere else.”

The gallery typically hosts about 10 shows annually. Often the themes vary, dependent on trends in local and regional art. Two of the most popular shows, however, occur annually: the Quilt Show and the Gourd Patch Festival.

Each April, the gallery hosts its month-long Quilt Show, coinciding with the American Quilter’s Society Annual Quilt Show and Contest in Paducah. The Gourd Patch Festival, held each September, also features outdoor entertainment, various competitions and art workshops for locals.

After moving to the Mayfield area about 25 years ago, Mary Jackson-Haugen saw the need for more culture in the community and chose to try and create a showcase for local art. She began building a base of volunteers and created the Mayfield-Graves County Art Guild. The organization, originally located on West Broadway Street, gave artists a place to showcase their work, as well as the opportunity to swap ideas and offer classroom training.

Not wanting to see Mayfield’s historic icehouse building torn down, about five years after the Mayfield-Graves County Art Guild began, local officials offered the icehouse building to Jackson-Haugen as a permanent home to promote art appreciation and education for the community. Now, more than 20 years later, for many in the community, the Icehouse Gallery has become part of the area’s culture.

“Lots of people come in and look at the artwork like it’s a museum,” Watson says. “But we feature something for everyone. We want to provide something special — something we think the community needs.”

The Icehouse Gallery also hopes to fill in the gaps left by art education in local schools by providing longer, more focused classes on everything from painting and sculpture, to classes focusing on drawing superheroes.

The gallery space is also available as an event venue for meetings, wedding showers, receptions and community entertainment.

“We’re set aside as a place uniquely dedicated to art in Mayfield,” says Watson. “You can be serious about art or just appreciate the space as a meeting place. We just try to provide a venue for everyone to enjoy.”

If you go:
Address: 120 North 8th Street, Mayfield
Phone: 270-247-6971
Hours: Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Thursday 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Admission is free.


Device of the month: Microsoft Surface 3

Microsoft_Surface3-2Microsoft has an instant winner with its newly redesigned Microsoft Surface 3 tablet. They did more than just drop the word “Pro” with their latest version. The Surface 3 features a slightly smaller screen size and still has the great battery life, locking magnetic keyboard and sturdy kickstand. The tablet also offers the full Windows operating system and Microsoft Office, making it a true hybrid between a laptop and tablet. Best of all, Microsoft significantly dropped the price well below its $900 Pro version — the new one rings in several hundred dollars cheaper. The WK&T Technology Store has them on hand now.

Tech Tips: Send your student back to school with a new computer or tablet

It might be hard to believe, but it’s almost time for kids to head back to school — Shhh, don’t tell your kids I said that.

While school supply lists aren’t getting any shorter, the benefits from putting a computer or tablet in your student’s hands is growing. Each day in school, students are required to do more and more work with a computer. During a typical school year, they’ll use computers for everything from online classes and enrichment activities, to project research and writing. There are even thousands of educational games that can help improve students’ grades.

So before the new school year starts, consider a new computer or tablet for your student. It can be one of the best investments you’ll make to ensure their success.

Don’t have a student headed back to school this fall? No matter your current situation, WK&T is happy to help you find the right computer for your needs. And with that in mind, there’s no doubt that shopping for a new computer can seem like a discouraging endeavor, so let’s hit the highlights of some of the factors to consider when purchasing a new desktop, laptop or tablet.

Tablets give users fantastic portability and have a longer battery life — typically good for nine to 10 hours of consistent use. You also have the added convenience of having an onboard camera for photos and a built-in keyboard. But, a tablet’s portability and extended battery life comes at the expense of processing power and screen size. Your tablet won’t be as fast a laptop or desktop, and you generally don’t have the option of a larger monitor.

Laptops offer a larger screen size, usually 11 to 17 inches, and they also have more processing power than a tablet. Laptops offer the ability to use the full versions of software suites, like Microsoft Office and Adobe’s Creative Cloud. But the increased screen size and processing power means your laptop’s battery life will decrease. You’re also losing some portability, because a laptop’s keyboard and computer housing make the device a little more bulky and heavy. If you want the best of both worlds, you can hook your laptop up to a docking station and use a larger monitor and full-size keyboard, but still take it with you when you’re on the go.

Unlike tablets and laptops, desktops can’t roam with you. But being locked in place isn’t all bad. With a desktop, you can get the largest monitor, the fastest processor and the most storage. Don’t forget that a desktop always has to be plugged in, so during a power outage, there’s no battery to keep you connected — but when they’re running, the possibilities are practically limitless.

In the end, all three devices will be able stream online movies, store large amounts of photos and smoothly surf the Internet — but in order to make the best decision for you, consider how you or your student will use the machine the most.

WK&T sees no lost time for accidents in 2014


WK&T celebrated the completion of 2014 with no lost time for on-the-job accidents. WK&T has an average of 70 employees, who worked nearly 140,000 hours safely in 2014. In addition to WK&T’s office and sales personnel working safely, linemen frequently work in hazardous conditions, and this reflects the cooperative’s commitment to making sure every employee of WK&T makes it home safely each day. Thank you and congratulations to WK&T’s employees for this great accomplishment!

Happy retirement, Tim!

WK&T would like to wish Tim Holloway a happy retirement! After more than 37 years working for the cooperative, Holloway retired from his position as the inspector of plant and safety in June. During his time with WK&T, Holloway was instrumental in helping to complete the fiber project, providing high-speed Internet as well as crystal-clear television and phone service to the area. From everyone at WK&T, thank you for all your work, Tim, and enjoy your retirement!

WK&T’s sales team goes green

SalesTeamMembers of the WK&T sales team are ready for the future! The sales team is taking steps to eliminate paperwork for documents and contracts by allowing customers to use a stylus to sign documents on a tablet. “We’re going green,” says Michael Lee, WK&T’s marketing and sales manager. “It’s a great way to save money and save the environment.”

If you’d like a sales representative to stop by and discuss WK&T’s full line of services, please call 877-954-8748 to schedule a visit.

Making a ‘smart’ decision

CEO, Trevor Bonnstetter

CEO, Trevor Bonnstetter

By Trevor Bonnstetter
Chief Executive Officer

When it comes to technology, we want everything to be “smart” these days. We have smartphones and smart watches, smart appliances in our kitchen and laundry room, smart thermostats and smart home gadgets with smart apps to control them.

While all this smart technology is impressive and can make life more convenient while saving us money, the really smart part of it all is the broadband network that so many of these devices and apps rely on to bring us this functionality.

This trend toward devices that are only possible with broadband is not going away. And as broadband becomes the leading infrastructure driving innovation, it is impacting every facet of our lives.

That’s why we decided long ago that improving broadband service in our rural area was the smart thing to do. With access to an advanced broadband network, boundless opportunities open up for our region:

Smarter businesses: Technology allows businesses to reach new customers and better serve the customers they already have. Smart businesses are using data and their broadband connections to learn more about customer habits, streamline supply chains and optimize their operations. Studies have shown that broadband-connected businesses bring in $200,000 more in median annual revenues than non-connected businesses. Our network ensures that these tools are available to our local businesses so they can compete regionally, nationally or even globally.

Smarter education: Local teachers and school administrators are doing amazing things with tablets, online resources and other learning tools. These smart schools are opening up new avenues for students to learn. Experts say that nationally, students in schools with broadband connections reach higher levels of educational achievements and have higher-income careers.

Smarter health care: From bracelets that keep track of physical activity to telemedicine, smart technology and broadband are improving the way we monitor and care for our bodies. Physicians are able to confer with other medical experts, transmit X-Rays and lab results and communicate with patients over our network. Through smart electronic medical records, everyone from stroke patients to expectant mothers is receiving better care because hospitals and doctors are getting “smarter.”

Smarter homes: A host of new devices has allowed users to bring smart technology into their homes. Smart devices allow you to monitor your home, change the thermostat, turn on lights and even lock or unlock doors remotely.

We’ve made smart decisions that put our community in a position to take advantage of this smart revolution. As our devices, businesses, homes, schools and hospitals get smarter, rest assured that your cooperative is smart enough to have the infrastructure in place to handle these demands — plus whatever the future holds.