Politics

Gov. Matt Bevin will return to the Fancy Farm picnic stage this summer after a two year absence from Kentucky’s premier political event.

Bevin has criticized the rowdy festival, which encourages politicians to trade insults on statewide television in front of a crowd of hecklers, and hasn’t attended the event since his first year in office.

But the governor is running for re-election this year and will share the stage with his opponent in the general election, Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear.

The event takes place in the town of Fancy Farm in Graves County and is part of a larger festival of barbecue, music and games organized by St. Jerome’s Catholic Church.

Beshear confirmed his attendance on social media, tweeting “Excited to go to Fancy Farm. See you there, @MattBevin.”

Bevin’s name was included on a list of confirmed attendees posted by organizers.

When he was running for governor in 2015, Bevin criticized the tone of the Fancy Farm picnic’s speakers and audience, saying that the raucousness further divides Republicans and Democrats.

“The one thing that discourages me, however, about this process is that we literally are celebrating the very worst elements of the political process,” Bevin said.

Bevin was in a slightly better mood once he was in office in 2016 and Republicans made big gains in statewide elections.

Lt. Gov. Jenean Hampton will not attend the festival, though Bevin’s new running mate Ralph Alvarado will.

Bevin dropped Hampton from his re-election ticket earlier this year and has declined to explain why he didn’t tap her to run with him again.

Hampton is the first African-American elected to statewide office in Kentucky. Alvarado is in his second term in the state senate and would be the first Hispanic-American elected to statewide office.

The event will be emceed by Bill Goodman, executive director of Kentucky Humanities and former host of KET’s Kentucky Tonight.

As of June 26, the list of confirmed speakers includes:

  • Gov. Matt Bevin, Republican
  • Attorney General Andy Beshear, Democrat
  • Lt. Gov. Candidate Ralph Alvarado, Republican
  • 1st district Congressman James Comer, Republican
  • State Sen. Stan Humphries,  Republican from Cadiz
  • State Rep. Richard Heath, Republican from Mayfield
  • Secretary of State Candidate Mike Adams, Republican
  • State Auditor Candidate Sheri Donahue, Democrat
  • 1st district Kentucky Supreme Court Candidate Whitney Westerfield
  • 1st district Kentucky Supreme Court Candidate Shea Nickell
  • Confirmed not speaking: Lt. Gov. Jenean Hampton
Ryland Barton is the Capitol bureau chief for Kentucky Public Radio.