The mystery of the banana continues

Questions surrounding the unnamed man who approached U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell with a banana at the Fancy Farm picnic last weekend remain unanswered, with even the senator in the dark about the offering.

The man, whose identity is not known, was grabbed by Kentucky State Police troopers when he came from the back of the stage and offered the fruit to McConnell as U.S. Sen. Jim Bunning was approaching the podium to speak Saturday afternoon.

The man was released by the troopers without being charged since he did not appear to intend any harm or to threaten the senator, and the man left the picnic grounds, according to reports.

When asked about the incident Thursday morning prior to his speech at the Rooster Booster Breakfast at the RiverPark Center in Owensboro, McConnell said he was as perplexed by the offering as the rest of the onlookers.

“Actually, I think he was trying to hand it to Jim Bunning,” McConnell said. “(The man) was friendly enough. I didn’t need a banana and neither did Bunning.”

Many who attended the annual picnic in Graves County said this year’s event seemed tamer and more scripted than in past years, and McConnell attributed that in part to the dozens of video cameras that now seem to accompany any political race at the top of the ticket.

“I think the speakers who are running are typically a little more cautious in the era of YouTube and constant coverage,” McConnell said. “I think that’s what you really saw down there at Fancy Farm, which is always disappointing to the reporters.”

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More news from Fancy Farm

Some more tidbits and notes from the hours spent out in the heat at St. Jerome Catholic Church today –

– Though the speeches at Fancy Farm have come to a close, Rep. Rocky Adkins of Sandy Hook noted that many of the successful slogans, phrases and speeches, as well as the gaffs, might continue on into the fall campaign season. Below are a few of the interesting ones I saw today –

– U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell supporters holding up a cutout of Gov. Steve Beshear in horse riding gear and shouting “Tally Ho!”

– Bruce Lunsford supporters with signs that had McConnell’s face superimposed on that of Alfred P. Newman saying, “What, me worry?”

– McConnell supporters dressed as Middle Eastern sheiks and one as Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez handing out dollar bills in thanks for not expanding domestic oil production.

– Best nickname was from Democrat Heather Ryan who is running in the 1st District against U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield, who she dubbed “Exxon Eddie” for his ties to the oil industry.

– Former Congressman and state legislator Carroll Hubbard used a line several times on Friday and Saturday to describe what he says is the control state Senate President David Williams has over the 21-member Republican majority in that chamber – “When David Williams takes a sleeping pill, and 21 senators take a nap.” Hubbard, a Democrat, is running against incumbent state Sen. Ken Winters, a Murray Republican.

– Adkins tried to initiate a new tradition at Fancy Farm this year, taken from Hillbilly Days in Pike County, with a bluegrass band beginning to play to drown out speakers who have run on too long. The band only began playing for one speaker – U.S. Sen. Jim Bunning – on Saturday, which prompted Adkins to say, “Let’s give that band another hand.”

– The biggest mystery of the day was an unidentified man from the crowd who got on stage, walked up the Mitch McConnell and offered him a banana. The long-haired man was hustled off the stage by Kentucky State Police troopers, who apparently released the man without any charges. The meaning of the banana offering has not been determined.

Gas prices top talk at Republican breakfast

Prices at the pump dominated the talk this morning at Graves County High School in Mayfield where Republicans from around the state gathered in preparation for this afternoon’s speeches at the Fancy Farm picnic.

U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell headlined the event, and hammered home that he believes gas prices are the top concern among the public. McConnell argued that Democratic leaders in Congress are standing in the way of increasing oil production through off-shore drilling and the conversion of oil shale, options that some offer could be environmentally unsound.

When asked about stalled talks in the House this week over the expansion of oil drilling on the outer continental shelf, McConnell said he expects the debate to resume when Congress reconvenes after Labor Day.

McConnell dismissed the argument that a drop in the price of oil won’t come in the short term by allowing expanded production in a limited way.

“Markets predict the future,” McConnell said. “Right now, they look at the Democratic nominee for president and the Democratic majority and see they don’t want to do anything about this.” Continue reading

News from Fancy Farm

Tidbits picked up at the Democratic and Republican dinners on the eve of the Fancy Farm picnic…

– Secretary of State Trey Grayson, a Republican, told reporters when asked about his future political plans that he is interested in either a U.S. Senate seat or the governor’s office.

Grayson, who won a second term last year as secretary of state after foregoing a gubernatorial run, said he has talked with U.S. Sen. Jim Bunning about his future plans, and said Bunning has told him that he plans to seek a second term in 2010.

Grayson said if Bunning follows through with those plans, he won’t challenge Bunning, but instead will consider a run for governor in 2011. Plans for a gubernatorial run could begin next year, if that’s the office he decides to seek, he said.

– Daviess County native Chad Aull, who now works in the Beshear administration as director of constituent services, was one of the featured speakers at Friday night’s bean supper sponsored by the Marshall County Democratic Party. Aull hails from Philpot and was speaking as president of the Kentucky Young Democrats.

– Members of the local delegation at Friday night’s dinners were Rep. Tommy Thompson of Philpot and Rep. Brent Yonts of Greenville, both Democrats.

– Several speakers at the Democratic dinner at Kentucky Dam Village noted the cooler temperatures inside the convention center this year as compared to previous years. Marshall County Judge-Executive Mike Miller offered one explanation for the cooler temperatures – the change to a Democratic administration with Gov. Steve Beshear’s election last November.

“Now we’ve got Democrats, feel that lovely, cool air,” Miller told the crowd.

– The politics continue when each party hosts a breakfast Saturday morning before the main event begins at St. Jerome Catholic Church at 2 p.m. The Republican Party of Kentucky will gather in the Graves County High School cafeteria at 9 a.m. and the Kentucky Democratic Party will be at Mayfield High School at 8 a.m.

Read more coverage of the night’s events in the Messenger-Inquirer.

Fancy Farm picnic plans

I’ll be heading down to Graves County this afternoon to cover the Fancy Farm picnic for the Messenger-Inquirer – a first for me.

Talking to folks this week who regularly attend this picnic that’s held each year on the first Saturday in August, the most common advice I’ve heard is to be sure to wear a short-sleeved shirt. Given that the temperature is expected to be about 96 degrees tomorrow, that advice won’t be hard to follow.

I plan to head by the picnic site at St. Jerome Catholic Church south of the town of Fancy Farm this afternoon to see what kind of preparations are under way for tomorrow’s event. I’ll then be off to Kentucky Lake State Park for the rally hosted by the Marshall County GOP Women that starts at 5 p.m. and then on to the bean dinner at Kentucky Dam Village hosted by the Marshall County Democratic Party for their faithful, which kicks off at 6 p.m.

I’ll try to make posts to At the River’s Bend as I’m able, and will have a wrap-up of all I’m able to take in later tonight here on At the River’s Bend and then in Saturday’s Messenger-Inquirer.

Stay tuned and wish me luck.

– Owen

McConnell to make post-Fancy Farm stop in Owensboro

U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell will stop in Owensboro for the Rooster Booster breakfast the week after the Aug. 2 Fancy Farm picnic in Graves County.

Barring appearances by presidential candidates Barack Obama or John McCain, McConnell and his opponent, Louisville businessman Bruce Lunsford will take top billing at the picnic – the state’s biggest political event of the year.

McConnell confirmed this week that he will be at Fancy Farm and Lunsford is also scheduled to attend the picnic, which will be emceed by House Majority Floor Leader Rocky Adkins, a Sandy Hook Democrat.

Competing polls paint different pictures of the McConnell-Lunsford match-up, which is gaining even more national attention and being pegged as more competitive than some had expected.

McConnell recently launched a television ad targeting Lunsford on gasoline prices and the state gas tax, and Lunsford is expected to respond to that attack today when he rolls out an “8-point Energy Plan” during a press conference in Louisville. Read about the press conference on the Herald-Leader’s PolWatchers.

We’ll see what McConnell has to say to folks here after Fancy Farm when he headlines the monthly breakfast on Aug. 7, which is put on by the Greater Owensboro Chamber of Commerce. The breakfast begins at 7:30 a.m. at the RiverPark Center.

Obama, McCain at Fancy Farm?

The Herald-Leader’s Ryan Alessi is reporting that this year’s Fancy Farm picnic on Aug. 2 could include Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama after talks with his campaign and picnic organizers “heated up” on Friday.

State Republican Party officials have also inquired with picnic organizers about logistics in case GOP nominee John McCain is able to make it to the western Kentucky event, which has traditionally is the largest political event in the state each election year.