A good, salty time was had by all at the 48th Country Ham Breakfast held at the Kentucky State Fair on August 25. The two-pronged agenda, to raise funds and cholesterol, is put together by Kentucky Farm Bureau and a slew of farmers, with the finale belonging to only one little pig.
What is the criteria for those Commonwealth Farms, you may ask?
The annual event has been feeding politicians and regular folks since 1964, raising more than $5.6 million dollars for charity. This year, the 16-pounder was auctioned off for the second year in a row to Republic Bank. They took the little piggy crying weeee weee weee did it again, all the way home for $600,000.
Motoring down Crittenden Drive at dark-thirty that morning I was ready to hook up with the Grimes team and get the good word out on the Commonwealth’s next Secretary of State. I was somewhat a late bloomer in the Grimes camp. I had witnessed her speech at Fancy Farm via KET’s coverage and it knocked me out.
Getting my attention was her vision for all of Kentucky, whether people were Republicans, Democrats or Independents. “Not sound bytes, ” she said, “Sound solutions.”
Campaign field director- volunteer coordinator Matt Daley met me at the fairground gate and escorted me to the ham epicenter of the state a.k.a. the south wing of the Kentucky exposition Center. I suited up in my Grimes gear – a T-shirt, visor and button.
Six of us positioned ourselves with a larger than life cardboard sign bearing the candidate’s name and likeness and I must say that she takes such a good photo, the enlargement process did not throw one pixel out of place.
Greeting the breakfast club on their way in with smiles and waves, no pitching for the candidate unless they really wanted a sticker. Which not only helps to remind good people about a great candidate but, in a pinch, serves as a handy pet hair remover.
One of the first to arrive was JCPS Superintendent Dr. Donna Hargens who is probably used to being up at this hour. Good practice for snow days, I thought.
Jerry Abramson made the rounds to shake the hands of the Grimes volunteers. Veteran political writer Al Cross, Mayor Greg Fischer , Governor Steve Beshear and First Lady Jane Beshear were the last to file through before the site team headed indoors as well.
The hall was brimming with candidates, elected officials,business owners and, well, ham lovers. Circulating in and around the grip and grin fest were cameras, tripods, lamps and microphones. Talk of jobs and the economy dominated the crowd. A mild whiff of partisan buzz was detected but was not to be outdone by the savory fragrance of the breakfast steam table.
We were nowhere near the midway but there was more spinning going in this wing than any Tilt-a-Whirl could muster.
Jack Conway was probably going for the ham but would stay for the coffee. I asked how life with newborn Alex was treating him.
“She’s got her nights and her days reversed,” he said. “So, we’re hoping that passes soon.” I reminded him that it happens to politicians toward the end of their campaigns. Hold steady, Jack, you’re the only Attorney General for Kentucky.
Mayor Fischer commented on my fashion choice for the morning. “You’ve got a great candidate there!”
One of the most enjoyable people I met was speaker, humorist and motivator Robert Farmer, or “Farmer Bob,” as he is known to his audiences throughout Kentucky and beyond. The “other Farmer” in the campaign season is running for Commissioner of Agriculture. He is very much down to earth as he takes a Will Rogers approach to growing a strong economy.
His promo material is a fresh copy of the 2012 Farmers’ Almanac. Did you know the best time to wean humans and animals in January is between the 19th and 27th of the month? Now you do.
I enjoyed chatting with Alison and her husband Andrew Grimes, who squeezed off a photo of the candidate and me for posterity. What a vibrant couple the yare!
I had never met Sen. David Williams but I thought as long as I have to endure his mug on my television set for a while longer, I may as well make contact. Before I let go his hand, I told him my family is from Russell County–not his most fertile turf. He blanched a tad. Then again, it could have been my big ol’ Grimes T-shirt.
Just before John Yarmuth headed into the dining room, I asked if it would be okay to quote him on sending Rand Paul back to Mars. Before he was my Congressman, he was the boss at LEO and knows what a hard news reporter I am. (Not.) So, I got an eye-roll and a grin.
The most awkward moment came as I turned around and who was standing in front of me was the diminutive Sen. Rand Paul in his pre-Martian suit. Mostly hoping he didn’t overhear my question to Yarmuth, I introduced myself as one of the many journalists who never got a chance to talk with him during the big campaign push so, could we try it again?
His handshake was strong but so was his hunger. I think he would have agreed to most anything to get at those biscuits and gravy — and coffee, not tea – so he said to contact his office. We shall see.
Got a hug from our governor and I wished him well. His embrace was as sturdy as his hair. (Does it ever move?) Our gracious First Lady offered her hand as well. I looked into the hall of passing political traffic finding their parking spaces at the tables. It dawned on me this was like Fancy Farm…with air-conditioning.
Time to chow down. I was impressed with the comfort level of the room to have McConnell, Conway, Paul and Williams in such close proximity with all those sharp utensils within reach.
The power of pork compels us or better yet, E-I-E-I-O!