Grand Champion Ham fetches record $2 million at country ham brea - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Grand Champion Ham fetches record $2 million at country ham breakfast

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- This year's Grand Champion Ham was sold at auction for a record $2 million split between two bidders.

The winner bidders were: Steve Wilson and Laura Lee Brown with Hermitage Farm LLC: $500,000, as well as Junior Bridgeman's Bridgeman Food and Steve Trager from Republic Bank, which issued a combined bid, donating $500,000 and $1 million respectively.

Republic Bank has made the winning bid seven times in 11 years.

The Wilsons told us at least part of the money will go to the West End School Charities; other charities are still being decided.

The first ham auction brought a $124 winning bid in 1964. Last year's $350,000 winning bid was the third highest offer ever from a single bidder, and the fourth highest bid in the auction's 50-year history. Yum! Brands Foundation of Louisville bid on and won the 13.3-pound ham produced by Harper's Country Hams of Clinton, Kentucky. The average price of the auctioned ham over the last 10 years is now nearly $545,000.

While such high bids understandably generate a lot of attention and excitement, participants know the money raised is donated directly to the charity of the winners' choice. Through the 50-year history of the auction KFB has helped raise millions of dollars for local charities, educational institutions and philanthropic groups.

Before the auction, pork and politics were served up for at least 1,600 guests at the 51st annual Kentucky Country Ham Breakfast and auction.

The event is a highlight at the Kentucky State Fair and celebrates the Commonwealth's deep agricultural roots. The feast kicks off Kentucky Farm Bureau day at the fair and includes the auction of the 2014 Grand Champion Country Ham.

Mark Haney, President of KFB, hosted the morning's ceremonies. Guest speakers Governor Steve Beshear, Senator Mitch McConnell, Agriculture Commissioner James Comer and Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer were also in attendance.

We caught up with Comer, who talked about his bid to become Kentucky's next governor. He says his campaign will officially start on Sept. 9.

"I'll launch a campaign at my hometown in Tompkinsville. We're very excited, we're getting ready for it in Tompkinsville, and I can't wait to start traveling the state, talking about my vision for Kentucky and ways we can move the state forward."
When asked about his opponent, Republican Hal Heiner, a former Louisville Metro Council member, Comer said he planned to 'push a bold agenda to move Kentucky forward."

Comer cited numerous accomplishments during his tenure as Ag Commissioner.

As for Heiner, he says he has already campaigned in 60 counties, and that most people he has met are worried about jobs, and says he has the experience to create jobs and stimulate economic development.

"I want to take those experiences, plus business principles, into the Executive Branch," Heiner said.

Approximately 60 other local, state and national elected officials took part along with the sellout crowd of 1,600 attendees. And the kitchen prepared huge quantities of food - most of which was provided directly by Kentucky farmers. More than 5,400 eggs, 1,600 half-pints of milk, 30 gallons of sorghum, 20 gallons of honey, 6,400 oranges and 450 pounds of country ham will be served during the breakfast.

Miss Kentucky 2014, Ramsey Carpenter, helped with the live auction of the Grand Champion Ham -- a tradition started by Heather French Henry when she was Miss Kentucky in 1999. 

"Well in '99, right after I won Miss Kentucky and was about ready to leave to compete for Miss America, the bidding had sort of stalled at about $40,000," French recalled. "And the current commissioner at that time looked down, and he saw me and he said, 'Miss Kentucky, come up here.' ... And he hands me this tray and says 'go down there and walk around with the ham.' That was the first year for Miss Kentucky carrying the ham, and it went from $40,000 to $118,000 that year."

Henry told us she gave Carpenter a few pointers, but above all, "make sure it goes for a lot of money."

Mission accomplished.

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