Looking Back: 1998 – 2008History of Festival
Ham Festivals through the years
This Chronological History was made available courtesy of the Cadiz Record.
At the 22nd Ham Festival’s Kickoff Breakfast, Circuit Judge Bill Cunningham said the festival was not just the celebration of a Trigg County agricultural product, but mostly a celebration of the county’s people.
“The most important resource of Trigg County is its people; we have a notion as to who we are and where we’re going,” he said.
The crowd was again estimated at 80,000, and lots of people came to watch music from Jeff Carson, the Blue Boyz, Reed Davis and the Accused, the Robbie Bartlett Band, Mickey Jack Cones and David Delaney. Another festival feature was the Kids Day Circus, where kids dressed up as animals or circus performers.
Trigg County Farmers Bank commissioned Dave Henderson of the Sand Sculpture Coalition in San Diego, Calif. to come make giant sculptures. Thirty-four tons of sand were brought in from the Blue Springs area of Lake Barkley and placed on Main Street for Henderson to work with. After he arrived, Henderson looked at the space with which he had to work, made some sketches and decided to sculpt two pigs instead of one. Plenty of festival attendees stopped in their tracks to watch him work throughout the week.
“If I can make a living making sand castles, you can do anything in America,” he said.
Sadly, the pigs were destroyed Sunday night, apparently by vandals. Chera-Lyn Cook, 1998’s Miss Kentucky, made an appearance at the festival on Saturday. United States Rep. Scotty Baesler, who was the Democratic candidate for the Senate that year, but he had to cancel because Congress had an unexpected session to work on budget matters. Lieutenant Governor Steve Henry spoke to Democrats instead.
Callie Ginn was crowned Miss Trigg County and Melissa Mitchell was honored as Mrs. Trigg County. James Adams Jr. won Grand Champion Ham and his father won third place.
The 23rd Ham Festival was a rainy one, but plenty of people still showed up. Police Chief Hollis Alexander estimated a crowd of 60,000, and many thought that it might have been the best Sunday crowd.
“The weather didn’t affect it as much as we thought it would,” said Festival Chairman Kerry Fowler.
Fowler’s ham was named Grand Champion for the first time after placing several times in previous years. Miss Trigg County that year was Jodi Sumner and Mrs. Trigg County was Toi Jenkins.
At the Kickoff Breakfast for the 24th Ham Fest, Kim Burkeen was given the Spirit of Ham Festival Award for her efforts in getting the festival in the Library of Congress.
Hundreds of children came out to West Cadiz Park for rides, the petting zoo and the “money in the haystack” competition. Festival Chair Kerry Fowler said that 80,000 people made an appearance at the festival that year. He said that 25,000 were there Friday, 40,000 were there Saturday, and 20,000 were there Sunday. “That’s the biggest ever,” Fowler said. “It was great. We had perfect weather and I want to thank everyone who worked so hard to make it a success.”
For the second year, Fowler won the Grand Champion Ham Award. Jason Behrends, a University of Kentucky graduate student from Texas was one of the judges. He said he was looking for hams between 13 and 23 pounds.
“They usually make the best-tasting hams,” he said. “Bigger hams don’t do as well.”
Christy Sheriger was crowned Mrs. Trigg County and Michelle LeClaire won the title of Miss Trigg County.
“I never expected to make it into the top 10, much less win,” said an ecstatic LeClaire.
The 1999 Miss Trigg County was there to wish the young contestants luck.
“I’ve had a wonderful year and met many different people,” she said. “It begins as soon as the crown is handed over. I was meeting people that very night.”
At the 25th Ham Festival, heavy rain canceled events like the World’s Largest Ham and Biscuit, the Firemen’s Olympics and a concert by country singer Jett Williams. Still, visitors came from all around the country, such as Montana, Louisiana, Indiana and Missouri. Plus, bands like Stone Country, VW Boys and Funkengruven still played their shows. Crowds ran for shelter Saturday when occasional cloudbursts “brought a damp curtain on festivities.”
Emily Jane Bridges was named Miss Trigg County for 2001, and Kate Steinbeck was first runner-up.
The first Ham Festival fireworks display occurred on Friday. Lots of folks came out and enjoyed calliope, bumper cars, corndogs, tattoos and the games park carnival.
The big controversy at the 26th Ham Festival was whether Trigg County was going to be able to hold onto its title for the World’s Largest Country Ham and Biscuit in the Guinness Book of World Records. On Sept. 28 of that year, Smithfield Foods, Inc., a Fortune 500 company in Smithfield, Va. took the title. By the time the festival started, the Guinness still hadn’t certified the effort yet, but it looked like one of the world’s largest ham marketers was going to snag the record.
The high school’s Future Farmers of America were responsible for baking that year’s biscuit. Ricky Burgess, the FFA president, said the members didn’t anything special to try to preserve the title, but stuck to the time-tested and approved recipe that earned Trigg County the title in 1985.
“We might have added a little more yeast to it to make sure it would rise,” said the student advisor, Allen Smith. “It looked like it was doing pretty well when we checked it. We didn’t do anything any different. It’s the world’s largest in diameter anyway.”
Broadbent’s B & B Food Products made the biscuit that set the record in 1985. Beth Drennan, one of the current co-owners, documented the effort in 2002 so she could file the paperwork and try to get the title back for Trigg County, although that effort eventually failed.
The first day of the festival saw a good soaking, but officials estimated a total of 75,000 attendees over the three-day period. Jett Williams, who had canceled the year before because of heavy rain, performed a concert. Additional entertainment included Mr. Blues Jones, Eddie Pennington, Milano, the Tyrees, the McKendrees and Sworn, a band from Cadiz.
Mandee McGee was crowned Miss Trigg County and Kimberly Riddle was Mrs. Trigg County.
Although Trigg County no longer officially had the World’s Largest Country Ham and Biscuit, that didn’t deter people from being excited and coming to get a taste of the biscuit. “It’s the biggest one I’ve ever seen anyway,” one spectator was heard to remark.
The 27th Ham Festival was the first year an actual head count was taken. Through a somewhat complicated formula, officials that the festival received between 25,000 and 30,000 visitors. One new addition to the festival was Trigg County Wildcat Cheerleaders Dunking Booth, and people seemed to enjoy dunking Superintendent Tim McGinnis.
Tiny Guier won the Grand Champion Ham Award and Ashley Brooke Adams was crowned Miss Trigg County.
The big controversy at the 28th Ham Festival was that the Festival Committee had banned horses from appearing in the parade to prevent their droppings and horseshoes from damaging the streets. To protest, some “peaceful demonstrators” rode horses behind the parade route, although police forced them to take Brown Street instead of continuing on Main Street. Some offensive comments were also shouted at some of the committee members.
“I was very disappointed at the comments thrown at the Ham Fest Committee,” said Main Street Manager Cindy Sholar. “The committee didn’t deserve that.”
The Shriners Club, which is known for its assembly of small cars, trucks and horses in parades around the country, was also cut out of the parade. Buddy Gish, the Shriners’ secretary and spokesman, was not happy.
“We think we have been discriminated against,” Gish said. We [participate] for the entertainment of little kids, middle-aged people and older folks.”
One of the festival’s highlights that year was the appearance of Grand Ole Opry performer Mike Snider, who used to be on the television show, “Hee-Haw.” Snider played mandolin and was backed up by two fiddlers, a guitar, a banjo and a bass fiddle.
The forecast had called for rain, but festivalgoers lucked out. Still, the crowds were a little less than previous years and Friday was sparse compared with Saturday and Sunday.
Out of 29 teenagers competing, Vanessa Baker was crowned Miss Trigg County.
Rodger “Kentucky Joe” Bingham spoke at the Kickoff Breakfast for the 29th Ham Festival. Bingham was one of the contestants on the “Survivor: The Australian Outback.” He lasted 36 of the 42 days on the show, and he was one of the final five contestants before he was voted off. Since that time, he had made many public appearances and was appointed to the office of Deputy Executive Director of Agriculture, Marketing and Product Promotion with the Department of Agriculture.
Wayne McAtee was named Farmer of the Year and Charlotte Wilson was given the Spirit of Ham Festival Award for her support since the festival’s beginning.
Peggy Graham coordinated Helping Hands’ efforts to make the 10-foot biscuit that year. She said that many people told her it was the best biscuit they had had.
The Trigg County Ham Festival celebrated its 30th Anniversary with perhaps the biggest and best event ever.Â Fairgoers enjoyed the music of Hopkinsville’s Brice Long on Friday night, while Shenandoah kept the feet tapping on Saturday. In celebrating 30 years of the event and Trigg County culture, organizers sold merchandise to commemorate the momentous anniversary. The festival reported selling out of 288 Christmas ornaments marking the occasion, and T-shirts remained as popular as ever.
Tiffany Leigh Brunson won the title of Mrs. Trigg County, while Erin Oakley won the Crown of Miss Trigg County. Tony Holland’s ham won the coveted blue ribbon in the ham contest.
In the final festival in the shadow of the now-razed courthouse, Ham Festival Committee President Thelma Fowler said, “This was the best Ham Festival ever. Everything went really well. Nothing came up that we couldn’t take care of.”
Fowler’s greatest challenge might have been strong wind gusts that shifted some tents and booths along Main Street on Friday. Despite the stiff breeze, no major incidents disrupted festivities, and smiles abounded.
The 2007 Ham Festival was the first year that there was no courthouse downtown and no bales of hay sit on around it, as well as no vendors on the closed Monroe and Court streets. Even so, the downtown area seemed just as packed as it ever had been. At the opening ceremony, Judge-Executive Stan Humphries promised that the missing courthouse would not deter from the festival even if a few problems might arise.
“We’ll get the bugs worked out and we’ll make it even better next year,” he said to the crowd gathered at the Renaissance Stage on Friday morning.
For the first time, a tractor pull was held at the Recreation Complex, and the participants pulled loads from one in the afternoon until well into the night after the square dance had started that Saturday. Also on Saturday, the David Ball Acoustic trip entertained an eager crowd on the Renaissance Stage.
Lana Leneave was crowned Miss Trigg County and Alice Johnson was crowned Mrs. Trigg County. Leneave coul be seen walking around the festival all weekend with her best friend, Miss Trigg County 2007 Erin Oakley. At one point, they even rode the camel in the park together with a young girl.
Another unusual feature of that year’s festival was the artist Sig Skundberg, who made several chalk drawings of classic paintings on the sidewalk outside the Janice Mason Art Museum. Children (both actual children and children at heart) filled in the drawing with different colors of chalk, following a grid of the painting.
“We had people three years old to 76 working on this,” Skundberg said.
The 32nd annual Trigg County Country Ham Festival went off without a hitch according to organizers. Favorable and unseasonably warm weather and a good turnout among visitors ensured a good time at the annual event.
Cadiz Police Chief Hollis Alexander reported no major incidents at the festival. “I feel like attendance might have been down a little from last year. We didn’t have as large as a crowd on Friday but it looked about the same as usual on Saturday.”
Trigg County Tourism Executive Director Bill Stevens echoed the Chief’s observations. “We saw the bigger crowd on Saturday, which is historically the case. My office was the intermediary between vendors and the planning committee. Most vendors were afraid about how they were going to do with the economy as it is, but the ones I talked to on Main Street said that they made up for a slower Friday on Saturday. The ones I talked to had no major complaints.”
Stevens said that many local lodging facilities reported few, if any vacancies. “Lake Barkley filled up, and we sent some people to Prizer Point. The week before, we did a survey of available rooms, and we saw limited vacancies at Super 8, Knights Inn and Broadbent’s, but I haven’t talked to any operators after the festival yet to find out how they did.”
Stevens said that he believed booth rentals to be greater than previous years, and met patrons of the county fair from neighboring communities and from other states like New Jersey and Wisconsin. He added that he met a guest at the fair from the nation of Honduras.
Ham Festival Planning Committee Member Melissa Noel said, “We had a fantastic weekend. Weather wise, it was almost perfect, but it was a little hot on Saturday.”
Noel said that some vendors reported decreased sales from previous years, while others remained comparable to previous years. “Some of the local people reported a really good weekend. Vendors in the park, including some churches sold hot dogs and hamburgers and were extremely popular with kids.”
Noel said, ice cream and cold beverages were some of the most popular items sought by fair goers during the weekend. She said that food sales appeared slow at first, but increased as the weekend progressed.
The Cadiz Record’s Accuweather Forecasting Service reported highs of 82, 86 and 84 degrees for the three days of the festival with no precipitation. Average high temperatures for the same three days, October 10, 11 and 12 are usually in the low 70’s according to the service’s records.
Noel said that some vendors in the park felt that they did not get as much exposure in the area. “One of the more positive comments we heard was that everyone was able to find a ham and biscuit. The city was out in front of city hall and people were popping in all day long to get one. I am not sure how many were sold, but it was a huge number.”
She added that Saturday’s concert by Bryan White seemed popular with fair guests. “I’m not good at estimating numbers, but the area was filled out and people watched from the streets. All-in-all, it was a very successful festival.”
While at the festival, James “Porkchop” Hopson said, “I’ve been to every Ham Festival. I’ve never missed one. It’s still early, there will be more people here by the time it is over.” Hopson said that he planned to ride a horse in Sunday’s parade.
Sandra Carrington of Martin, Tenn., said, “We came to Cadiz for the festival. It’s great. We come every year.”