Ham Fest History

The Ham Festival has been around about a half-century. So how did celebrating a “ham” come about?

Here's a brief history of how it all began.

Prior to 1977, Farm-City week culminated in a bar-b-que dinner with a baking contest for county residents. While this was a wonderful time of fellowship and fun for the locals, it did not seem to be quite enough. University of Kentucky Agriculture Extension Agent, John Fourquean, did some brainstorming with other people in his office and two long time residents of the county, George Bleidt and Marvin Broadbent, Jr.

It seemed that many other rural areas had festivals in either the spring or fall. Trigg County needed one also!!!! Thus came the first Trigg County Country Ham Festival. Trigg County has long been noted for its delicacy – the country ham.  A festival to preserve the craft of curing hams seemed only appropriate.

The first festival was held in downtown Cadiz, Oct. 20-22, 1977. There were approximately 30 booths, 22 entries in the Ham Show and Judging Contest, a rocking chair marathon and a Political Tricycle Race won by Judge Executive Zelner Cossey.

By 1982, 70 attractions and events made the Ham Festival, and the first parade was held.

1983 saw activities begin to build. Governor John Y. Brown attended the Rotary Club’s Invitational Ham Run. Former NFL player, and Trigg County native, Coy Bacon was the first parade grand marshall. Rose Traughber began her reign as Miss Triggy. The World’s Largest Country Ham and Biscuit debuted in 1985.

The 4,000 pound biscuit was documented by the Guiness Book of World Records. A crowd of over 15,000 people were on hand to view the biscuit and parade with Grand Marshall, University of Kentucky Basketball Coach, Joe B. Hall.

A Hog Killin'. Real. Raw.
And Authentic.

So most have never seen a good ol’ fashioned hog killin’. Thanks to Hayden Cunningham, we have a visual gallery of raw, authentic and untouched photos of the process. Go check out the Cunningham Hog Killin’ for yourself.

1987’s festival drew national attention when County resident Evaleen Mosely was struck by an out-of-control privy in the outhouse race. This was the last year for the outhouse race!  

In the early 1990’s crowd attendance began to swell to 25,000 plus people as exhibits, activities and booths increased in number. Shuttle buses began to run from the edge of town to the center of activity so that many additional parking areas could be utilized. 1985 showed two new activities. Sunday included a full day of activities. Saturday night Grand Ole Opry performer, Mike Snider, entertained a crowd of 3,200 people with a free concert. 

1996 the Ham Festival presented a free concert by county music singer, Ken Mellons.Entertainment was expanded in 1997 to include a free concert on Friday night by Blues singer Dean Hall and the Loose Eels, a Saturday night concert by David Kersh and an open air Worship service on the Court House Square followed by a Gospel concert by Buck Rambo. 

An estimated crowd of 35,000 plus people attended the festival on Saturday alone.While entertainment and activities continue to grow each year (there are 170 booths at this year’s festival) organizers are stretched to come up with something new each year. The old time favorite petting zoo and music throughout main street is still here. 

The Ham Show and Judging continue to be a focal point of the Saturday activities, and hand-crafted quilts are always popular. All of Trigg County opens their community to welcome the many visitors and “home folks” who come back to Cadiz, the second weekend in October each year. This is a time to meet many new friends and renew old acquaintances.

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