‘Truly homegrown’

St. Jerome’s parish picnic provides more than politics
Richard Hayden (left) and Russell Ellegood (right) lift some mutton from the barbeque pit on Aug. 4, 2018. LAURA CLARKE | WKC


On Aug. 4, 2018, crowds flocked to the far west end of Kentucky for St. Jerome Parish Picnic’s famous barbeque and slightly more infamous political speeches.

But for all of the media attention given to the afternoon politics – which only lasted a few hours – the annual event in Fancy Farm remained what it has for the past 138 years: a parish picnic.

“It started not as a political thing but as a family get-together,” said Denis Wilson, a parishioner and member of a committee dedicated to preserving the St. Jerome School and Museum.

He spoke to The Western Kentucky Catholic on Aug. 4 while standing in the basement of the school-turned-museum, where he had been showing visitors various items on display from Fancy Farm history.

Barbeque pit volunteers chat in the morning of the Aug. 4, 2018 St. Jerome Parish Picnic. LAURA CLARKE | WKC

Wilson explained that like many parish picnics, “generations of families” put together the different aspects of the picnic, from cooking meat to baking desserts to selling food.

However, St. Jerome is unlike many other parishes, which were established to serve a preexisting community.

In the case of Fancy Farm, “the community grew up around the parish,” said Wilson of the region, which remains predominantly Catholic.

For Wilson, the community, the parish and the picnic share a consistent 

Russell Ellegood, a parishioner and volunteer at St. Jerome’s annual parish picnic, rests against the barbeque pits on Aug. 4, 2018. LAURA CLARKE | WKC

theme: “It’s truly homegrown; my wife brought four pies in!” he said.

Russell Ellegood, keeping an eye on the smoked meat on the barbeque pits, told the WKC that the total amount of meat cooked that day would total more than 18,000 pounds. He said he has been doing this “for as long as I can remember.”

Ellegood explained that before the meat is placed on the pits (around 8 a.m. on Friday), St. Jerome’s pastor, Fr. Darrell Venters, celebrates Mass, “then blesses the meat.”

If that is not indicative enough of a Catholic event, there’s also the tradition of the Diocese of Owensboro’s current bishop offering a prayer before the start of the political speeches.

“I have seen people come from other counties, and from other countries,” said Ellegood, explaining that besides welcoming curious visitors, the picnic also serves as a homecoming for Fancy Farm natives who have since moved away.

He reflected on the question of whether to call it the “St. Jerome Picnic” or the “Fancy Farm Picnic,” noting that the terms are nearly synonymous: “If you ask people where you go (to church), you say Fancy Farm.”

Ellegood said the community feel of the picnic is catching, which includes non-Catholics volunteering as well. When new people move to the area, they inevitably get involved with the picnic.

“Everybody pitches in,” he said. “It’s just community.”

St. Jerome Parish in Fancy Farm hosted its 138th picnic on Aug. 4, 2018. LAURA CLARKE | WKC


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