Speaker offers a century of news in one afternoon

Kierstin Kirk

This Thursday night, the back of Barnes & Noble will become a verbal time machine as listeners travel over 150 years into the past and dive into the vast history of Fancy Farm, Kentucky. 

“The Fancy Farm and St. Jerome Church,” a lecture that is part of the Kentucky Live! series, will take place at the bookstore on Campbell Lane at 7 p.m. and is a free, open event to the public. 

Cynthia Elder, local historian, photographer and editor of “The Catholic Settlement: A History of St. Jerome Catholic Church 1836-2011,” will be the featured speaker. A book signing will follow her lecture. 

“I’m excited and sort of apprehensive. It’s been awhile since I’ve done something like this,” Elder said. “I’m interested in telling the story of Fancy Farm.” 

Elder is a Louisville native and attended WKU in 1976 and 1977. She first visited Fancy Farm during that time to visit a college friend who was from the small city. In the early 1990s, Elder married Jimmy Elder from the Fancy Farm community and became involved with the activities of the Parish church.

“The Catholic Settlement: A History of St. Jerome Catholic Church 1836-2011,” Cynthia Elder’s book, is a revised and updated version of a book published in 1986 by Leo Willett, a priest of the St. Jerome Church. Willett’s book documented the city and church’s history up until the mid 1980s. 

“To celebrate the 150th anniversary, the church asked me to update Brother Leo’s book,” Elder said. “I knew I was going to have to start all over from scratch… I basically took his information and what he had and updated it for the 25 years that had past.”

When the Kentucky Live! staff asked Elder to speak, she didn’t think it was going to be such an important event. 

“They came to Fancy Farm to see the community and church and I was like ‘Okay, I could’ve just sent pictures,’ but I knew it was a pretty big deal then,” Elder said. 

Brian Coutts, head of the Department of Library Public Services, traveled to Fancy Farm with a photographer and met with Elder to discuss her book, the history of the city and the great picnic. This year being a senate election year, he decided it was a great topic for the series. 

“We thought it would be interesting to present a speech on the most famous political event which occurs annually in Kentucky, the first Saturday in August, and that’s the great Fancy Farm picnic,” Coutts said. 

The picnic has been a tradition for the city since 1880 and was held for politicians to talk about their policies and ideals. In 1984, the Guinness Book of World Records named it the world’s largest picnic. Now, families from Fancy Farm that have moved come back to the city to run lemonade stands, eat barbecue and just enjoy the community during the picnic.

This year in particular, a lot of media came to the picnic due to the important election coming up in November between current US Senator Mitch McConnell (R) and Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes (D).

“The picnic put Fancy Farm on the map and allowed the world to see what we are like,” Elder said. 

Elder is hoping that listeners who attend the event will take away a better understanding of what Fancy Farm consists of and has to offer all year round. 

“I want them to have really just a better understanding of what we are like 364 days a year, not just the picnic,” Elder said. “It’s a good community and I want to convey that.”