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The 2009 Ham Days is being promoted as the 40th anniversary of the festival, but the "first" Ham Days reportedly took place in 1971, according to news stories from that year. Confused? It isn't the first time.
The numbering of Ham Days has been in question for years, and the official and unofficial numbers remain something of a mystery.
Charlie Pearl wrote about the issue in 1994. "How do you count Hammiversaries?" was included in the preview of that year's Ham Days.
The 25th Ham Days was being held in 1994, so Pearl had reviewed the newspaper archives as well. Yet when he looked in the 1970 edition, he couldn't find any reference to the festival.
In 1981, the newspaper wrote about the origins of Ham Days. The idea for the event was (and still is) attributed to Ed Marrett, who served as the president of the Chamber of Commerce in 1971.
Marrett had moved to Lebanon from Owensboro, which hosts a barbeque festival annually. Marrett thought Marion County needed something similar, according to Sonny Pickerill and Bill Parman, both of whom volunteered for those early Ham Days.
While the idea of a Ham Days festival may go back to 1971, a smaller "ham day" of sorts may go back earlier to a breakfast held in an Army surplus tent on the Marion County Courthouse lawn.
Pickerill said those breakfasts were pretty much just that, breakfast.
There was no Pigasus Parade, no Pokey Pig, no car show and no Junior Farmer or Little Miss Ham Days. Those events were later added to what has become Marion County Country Ham Days.
Only a couple hams were prepared during those breakfasts, Pickerill recalled. He said he knew that because he kept those hams in his refrigerator.
Mary Jane Shockency said she could not remember how everything got started, but she knew it was more of an informal gathering than a full-blown festival.
"When they first started it, it was just a get-together," she said.
So, if the first "ham days" was held in 1970, then this would be the 40th annual event. If it was held in 1969, as this year's (apparently quite popular) tee-shirts declare, then this is indeed the 40th anniversary.
Is that what happened? No one seems to recall exactly. Is that possible? Definitely.
Regardless of whether or not this is the official 40th anniversary, Ham Days has become a weekend that brings the community together.
Shockency remembered cracking eggs by hand, and Fabian Buckman said he recalled cooking them in a big skillet many years ago. Today, the pounds of ham, the eggs and biscuits are counted in the thousands rather than the dozens.
"It's really grown into what Ed imagined it could be," Parman said.
Here's a look back on some of the history of the event as recorded in the pages of the newspaper. 1971 - The Sept. 2 edition announced "Country Ham Festival Set". The proceeds from the Oct. 2 event would be used toward the purchase of an industrial park in Lebanon.
"The day-long celebration will feature carnival rides, flea market, open barbecue and pie eating contest, ending with a square dance and country music. A color television set also will be given away," the story read.
Tickets for the breakfast were $2 and included "a generous serving of country ham, two eggs, red-eye gravy, biscuits and plenty of coffee," according to the Sept. 30 issue. A parade was also part of the event.
That first festival yielded a photo of Rev. W.A. Clutts in a pie-eating contest and raised $2,112. Jackie Crouch won the color TV, in case you were wondering.
1972 - An estimated crowd of more than 2,500 people attended Country Ham Days, according to the Oct. 5 paper. The event raised $2,800.
1973 - Ham Days was held early, Sept. 14-15, that year. The Sept. 20 paper proclaimed, "Country Ham Days Called Successful; Net $3,180."
1974 - Ham Days was held Sept. 27-28. A replica of Ft. Harrod was on display.
Sen. Marlow Cook attended the festival, which included a mock robbery at Marion National Bank.
1975 - "Record crowd, big parade highlight Ham Days here," the Oct. 2 edition announced. The only description of the crowd was "hundreds crowded the Lebanon streets ..." for the biggest parade in Ham Days history, which included 29 units, 25 antique cars and more than 80 horseback riders.
Visitors included Thelma Stovall (Democratic candidate for lt. governor), Bob Gable (the Republican gubernatorial candidate) and Queenie Bee of Burger Queen. Gov. Julian Carroll stopped by Lebanon the Monday after Ham Days.
On a related note, another headline proclaimed "$6 million loan approved for new industry." Land for a Lebanon plant was purchased for a $29 million plant. Dayton Malleable Inc. had purchased 156 acres of land near Old Calvary Road the previous January.
1976 - "Ham Days are biggest success yet" as 1,000 breakfasts were served.
Byron Crawford of WHAS TV was in attendance.
Also, an A1 headline announced "Swine flu vaccine expected here in mid October".
1977 - No references to Ham Days in the paper. Does anyone know why not?
1978 - "Ham Days is a smashing success," the Enterprise reported.
More than 2,000 breakfasts were served, and the parade crowd was estimated to be around 10,000 people.
Once again, politicians made Ham Days a stop as well, including former Louisville mayor and gubernatorial candidate Harvey Sloane, Richard Lewis (a Democratic candidate for lt. governor) and Bill Cox (another candidate for lt. governor), and Carroll Hubbard (a first district congressman who was considering a run for governor).
1979 - The newspaper reported a crowd between 8,000 and 13,000 at the "ninth annual Ham Days."
Editor Steve Lowery wrote that Ham Days was "a photographer's dream and an editor's nightmare."
Gubernatorial candidate Louie B. Nunn visited the festival, and more than 1,000 people reportedly participated in the parade that year.
1980 - "Ham Daze (?)" was the headline of the Oct. 2 paper. The crowd was estimated at 10,000. An editorial declared the 10th annual Ham Days was Marion County's "finest hour."
More than 3,200 breakfasts were served, 250 hams and 198 gallons of fried apples were consumed, and Byron Crawford judged the beard contest.
1981 - The headline "Burp!" led a story announcing 15,000 to 20,000 people attended. They ate 4,548 breakfasts, including 15,000 biscuits.
Ham Days raised $34,796, a big increase over the $25,382 raised the previous year.
"The most important thing about Ham Days is that so many people from so many walks of life helped out and worked together. That's what Ham Days is all about," said Nancy Tatum, secretary of the Chamber of Commerce.
Ninie Sooter wrote a column about losing her voice after participating in the Ham Days husband-calling contest. She also made this announcement about a popular clown, "Boho! Oh, Boho! I will fully admit before the whole world that I have a wild crush on Boho the Clown! He is adorable, handing out smiles by the truckload to anybody who catches sight of him. If laughter were riches, the man would be king."
1982 - "Ham Days puts a smile on Marion County"
The crowds continued to grow to an estimated 30,000 to 32,000 people.
Maker's Mark advertised the festival in 18 newspapers across the state.
1983 - "Ham Days are hog heaven"
The crowd estimates climbed again to 35,000 to 40,000 people. The chamber served 5,073 breakfasts, 8,000 pounds of country ham, 16,800 eggs and 18,000 biscuits.
The chamber of commerce grossed $76,000, although the net profit was estimated between $12,000 and $15,000.
From the editorial, "Ham Days is tribute to Marion County":
"To say the County Ham Days Festival was a success would be an understatement. It was absolutely outstanding."
1984 - The first color photo from Ham Days appeared on A1 of the Sept. 26 issue, previewing the festival.
The Oct. 3 issue declared, "Ham Days ... Hamtastic!
The crowd was estimated between 25,000 and 30,000. 6,050 breakfasts were sold.
From Steve Lowery's column, "... the number of people who came to the festival is irrelevant. What's important to note is that thousands of people came to town, enjoyed the free entertainment and home-cooked food and went home with a positive impression of Marion County.
1985 - The Oct. 2 paper had a four-page wrap, "Ham Days 1985 - a golden memory to treasure always."
Eddie Miles performed his salute to Elvis.
Ninie Glasscock wrote, "If all the eggs cooked and served at Ham Days were laid end to end, the line would stretch from the stage area at Main and Proctor Knott Avenue all the way to the Convenient Store on East Main Street."
The gross receipts were more than $110,000, and the estimated crowd was between 20,000 and 25,000.
One of the biggest success stories of Ham Days '85 was the unforgettable train rides to Campbellsville. The train ticket sales totaled almost $10,000.
A break-dancing contest was part of that year's festival.
1986 - The front of the Oct. 1 edition included a photo of a train passing below St. Francis of Assisi Church on the way to Nelson County. "Ham Days Festival draws record crowd" was the headline. Another story on A2 declared it the "piggest" Ham Days ever with an estimated 50,000 attendees.
The reported receipts were $132,818, about 20-25 percent of which is net profit.
Terry Meiners of WHAS in Louisville was the grand marshal of the Pigasus Parade.
1987 - "It just keeps getting 'pigger' and better."
$109,429 was raised during Ham Days. The previous year, Ham Days received $34,505 in train rides, which were not an option in 1987.
Steve Lowery, who had moved to Bardstown, wrote a column about returning to Ham Days as a visitor. "In the past, I have written about the spirit of Ham Days. But the fact is it took me nine years and change of jobs to appreciate the value of the festival. It is quite simply a people event that is first-rate. It is a homecoming-plus. It is talking for an hour or more to an old friend you haven't seen in years. It is nodding to familiar faces and stopping to discuss politics, the economy, the Marion County Knights' good fortune (love them Knights) or important matters like the quality of the barbecue that the chamber of commerce was selling this year."
1988 - A subhead read, "Kentucky's premier festival in Marion County is hamtastic!"
The weather impacted the festival that year.
"A heavy sky turned up and cried great, sloppy tears over the Marion County Country Ham Days festival Saturday morning," Ninie Glasscock wrote.
"But what left Ham Days organizers and workers thunderstruck was not the outpouring of rain but the outpouring of humanity."
Because of the rain, breakfast was moved to the St. Augustine cafeteria. 2,076 breakfasts were sold Saturday that year (which was down from 3,223 breakfasts the previous year).
Sunday, 4,039 breakfasts were served (up from 3,683 the previous year).
1989 - Oct. 5 edition, Ninie Glasscock wrote a column, "The crowds, the chamber and the workers all benefit'
"I overheard a lady in The Enterprise office last week complaining about Ham Days. She said that entirely 'too few people benefit from Ham Days,' and that folks were getting tired of 'all that hard work for nothing.'"
Glasscock acknowledged that she is a "gung ho Ham Days supporter", and she then wrote about the various people who do benefit from the festival.
1990 - "Near record crowds at Kentucky's 'biggest volunteer festival'"
"We take pride in saying that Ham Days is the biggest volunteer festival in the state," said Kay Lanham Johnson, who was director of operations for the chamber.
An estimated crowd of 20,000 to 25,000 people attended, including Gov. Wallace Wilkinson and his wife, Martha.
Breakfasts: 3,310 Saturday, 3,468 Sunday
1991 - "The sky's the limit ..." declared the headline, a reference to the balloon race that was part of that year's festival. The balloon race started in a field (where the board of education office now sits) and went beyond Springfield.
Car show entries increased to more than 200, and 7,649 breakfasts were served.
John Boswell, president of Independent Stave Company, was quoted as saying, "I knew [Ham Days] was a celebration, an annual event where the people of the community got together and have - kind of a big party... It was the biggest event, most enthusiastic event I've ever seen in a small community."
1992 - "Rain fell but spirits were high at 23rd Country Ham Days," the headline announced.
Civil War re-enactors took part in the event, but the weather prevented the balloon race from getting off the ground.
The two-day breakfast total was 6,818.
1993 - "'93 Ham Days is a great event" was the headline.
1994 - Sept. 28, full-color Ham Days wrap. "25th Hammyversary - a hamtastic hamstravaganza"
A bit of controversy was added to the events when the police closed two craft booths. Seven people were accused of selling merchandise with trademark violations. All of them were from out of town.
3,094 breakfasts sold Saturday, and 3,747 sold Sunday.
1995 - "Breakfasts served nearly tops record" was the headline. 7,449 breakfasts were served.
Machu Pichu, a group from South America, brought an international flavor to Ham Days, while Paul Cox set up his grandfather's moonshine still during the festival.
1996 - "Ham Days bring folks to Lebanon" Anthony Epps was the grand marshal of the Ham Days parade. 1997 - "Hog Heaven in '97" The two-day breakfast total was 8,072.
The newspaper spoke with visitors Sam and Leonard Hardisty. Sam was from Hartfield, Va., and Leonard was from Randolph, N.J.
"We come down here and don't have to look at our watch," Sam said. "It's a chance for the two of us to get together and relax. This is a really good festival and it's nice to see people in the town pulling together to make it that way."
1998 - "Marion County Country Ham Days" Ummm... 'nough said apparently. 1999 - "Making it shine in '99" 2000 - "Hamming' it up in the new millenium"
Nearly 6,000 breakfasts were served, and the Pokey Pig took a one-year hiatus.
2001 - "A Community Affair"
The aftermath of the 9-11 attacks brought out patriotic spirit during that year's festival.
2002 - "Marion County Country Ham Days Red, White and Blue in 2002!"
6,250 breakfasts were served. 2003 - "2003 Ham Days" Ummm... again... apparently 'nough said. 2004 - "No place like ham" "Perfect weather was a plus for Ham Days" 6,008 breakfasts were served. 2005 - "Where pigs fly ..."
Ham Days attendance was in decline, as 5,573 breakfasts were served, down from 6,008 in 2004.
That was the final year of the Sorgham Festival in Springfield, and Marion County did not want its festival to end.
"We need something to really spice up Ham Days," said Eric Daugherty, Ham Days co-chairman.
2006 - "Rain affects crowds, not fun, at Ham Days
Cartoon characters mingled with the crowds, during Ham Days festivities.
"SpongeBob Squarepants may have felt right at home in the wet conditions that followed the rain that soaked Marion County Saturday. In spite of the weather, SpongeBob, Scooby-Doo, spaceman Buzz Lightyear, Elmo and thousands of others visited the 2006 version of Ham Days over the weekend," the newspaper reported.
More than 3,300 breakfasts were served.
From the editorial "Rain or shine, Ham Days a good time":
"Lebanon must be living right. On Saturday, after tearing a page from the book about the 'Good Weather Window,' Mother Nature saw fit to bask Marion County and Country Ham Days in sunshine on Sunday
"There for a minute, we thought it was going to be Hambrella Days!'
Richard RoBards, former publisher of the Central Kentucky News-Journal in Campbellsville, gets credit for that last line.
2007 - "Hammin' it Up"
A Locks of Love cut-a-thon prompted 69 volunteers to donate their pig tails, which measured out as 250 feet of hair.
5,200 breakfasts were served 2008 -"38,000 attend festival" 5,201 breakfasts were sold.
The parade, featuring grand marshal Patrick Henry Hughes, included 152 entries and nearly 1,200 people.
"Some people might think (and rightfully so) that Ham Days volunteers are gluttons for punishment," an editorial read. "And, at the end of the weekend when their backs are aching and their feet are swollen, they probably feel the same way. But, Ham Days volunteers all have one thing in common. They love their community unconditionally and they love Ham Days."