LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The Kentucky State Fair got under way Thursday morning in the usual manner -- with a mixture of politics and local produce.
For decades, the Commodity Breakfast has showcased foods produced by local farmers including staples like country ham, bacon, steak, eggs, and all the fixings. But it wouldn't be complete without the presence of state and local officials, many of whom took turns serving up some of the fantastic food.
We caught up with Attorney General Jack Conway as he was passing out bacon in an apron.
"I come out every year, and I serve food out here -- I love coming out," Conway said. "It's a great kick-off for the State Fair. And this morning I've been serving goat bacon. I guess you can make bacon out of anything."
Conway says he likes the traditional breakfast because it gives farmers a chance to come out and showcase their products.
"Most people don't realize that we are the fourth largest agricultural state in the country," Conway said.
When asked about the possibility that he might seek the governorship, Conway said "If I get a chance, I'll run. I've said that.
Conway noted that the election is still more than two years in the future.
"I have a great job right now. I love being Attorney General, I love what I'm doing. And my wife and I are going to talk about it and if we think that we can do it and we can advance causes like education and early childhood education and make higher education more affordable in this state, there's a good chance we'll do it."
Conway says he is particularly proud of his office's accomplishments, including progress in the fight against prescription drug abuse.
"What we've done in the area of prescription pills in this state is pretty remarkable. For the first time in over a decade the numbers of people using prescription pills who are using them for off-label purposes is actually going down. So I'm very, very proud of that."
Conway also mentioned the success of his task force dedicated to fighting exploitation of children on the Internet.
"We've taken over 400,000 child porn images off of the Internet through my new Cyber Crimes Unit," Conway said.
Conway says it's rewarding to serve as Attorney General because he can make a difference in crime as well as advocate for consumers.
Gov. Steve Beshear also showed up to serve his constituents food from Kentucky farmers, and he weighed in on the potential candidates for upcoming Gubernatorial race.
"I hear that Attorney General Conway is looking at it, that Crit Luallen is looking at it, that Adam Edelen is looking at it -- so you'll have a lot of lookers I guess for a little while longer," Beshear said.
As for the hotly contested Kentucky Senate race, Beshear says he thinks Alison Lundergan Grimes has an excellent chance of beating either Republican Senator Mitch McConnell or Steve Bevin.
"I think Alison Lundergan Grimes can win this Senate race," Beshear said. "I think Senator McConnell is more vulnerable than he's ever been because I think people are fed up with what's going on in Washington right now.
"And he's been there for 30 years, and he's part of the problem, and I think people want a change. It's time to kind of get that place moving again and to get somebody there who will work with both sides of the aisle."
Beshear says he is proud of a recent initiative both he and his wife supported to raise the dropout age in Kentucky from 16 to 18.
"It's one of the most exciting things that's happened in the last 5-1/2 years," Beshear said. "We've worked very hard ... both Jane and I. And we finally got a bill passed that said the districts could voluntarily adopt this policy, and when 55 percent of them adopted it, it would become mandatory."
Beshear said he was "astonished" to have over 100 districts adopt the policy after only two weeks.
"So it's going to be mandatory, and it really sends a strong message to our families and our kids that education matters," Beshear said. "If you don't get a high school diploma, you don't have a shot anymore in this 21st century to get a good job and support a family and have a good quality of life. So stay in school and get those skills."
Kentucky State Fair Board President Clifford "Rip" Rippetoe was excited to attend the breakfast during his first year in Kentucky.
"It is my first one," Rippetoe said. "It's really exciting. It's so good to be here in Kentucky doing this."
This is also the first year for free parking at the Fair, and Rippetoe says he believes it will help ease traffic congestion near the Fairgrounds.
"On weekends only we'll have free parking: Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays," Rippetoe said. "And the idea there is that we're going to be able to spread that congestion out so that we don't have those waits."
Rippetoe says free parking will be available at Papa Johns Cardinal Stadium. People will have the option to bring pre-purchased admission tickets with them or buy them in the green lot.
As for construction on Kentucky Kingdom, Rippetoe says crews have been working "diligently," and signs are already up with the new logos and a re-opening date of May 2014.
Of course, the commodity breakfast is the home turf for Kentucky Ag Commissioner James Comer, and he explained to us what the commodity breakfast is all about.
"It is a showcase of agriculture," Comer said. "We bring all the different commodity groups together to kick off the State Fair. You have catfish farmers, beef cattle farmers, poultry farmers; we have eggs and bacon, ribeye steaks and we reflect on the previous year's accomplishments in agriculture. It has been a great year -- the weather has been perfect, and prices good. "So we have a lot to celebrate here this morning."
Comer says the Fair is the biggest event of the year for his office.
"It takes about 25 percent of our manpower in the department to put this together," Comer said. "So we're really excited about it."
Former Lt. Gov. Dr. Steve Henry and his wife, Heather French Henry, were also on hand. Both of them have been encouraging men to take advantage of the free prostate cancer screenings offered every year.
"This is our ninth year for doing the prostate cancer screens," Steve Henry said, noting that this is the largest free screening of its kind in the nation.
He said they started it because to give men more opportunities to be screened. The free screenings are being handled by the staff at First Urology.
"All the doctors come out here for the whole four days that we're doing it, free of charge. And the testing is free," Steve Henry said.
Steve Henry says when he was diagnosed with the disease 10 years ago, he didn't feel there was enough information and organizations for men out there, and noted that prostate cancer is now striking men earlier in their lives.
Heather Henry -- Miss America 2000 -- says women tend to take better care of themselves than men, and that sometimes men need prodding from their wives or partners to go get tested.
"Women are very vigilant about their healthcare, but men -- not so much," she said. "So we find the State Fair -- that if we talk to the women, and we convince them that it is good for their man's health, they'll bring them into the booth."
High risk groups include African-Americans, Vietnam veterans, and any man who has a family history of prostate cancer and men in those groups are urged to get tested in their 40s.
Free screening for prostate cancer -- as well as other free health screenings -- are located in the South Wing of the Exposition Center.
The Kentucky State Fair runs through Aug. 25. WDRB Day the Fair is Wednesday, Aug. 21.
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