The Daviess County Democratic Party's 50th annual Democratic Picnic and Wendell H. Ford Dinner, which the party thought was scheduled for Saturday at the Youngman Readiness Center (formerly the Kentucky National Guard Armory), 3300 Tamarack Road, has been canceled.

Kaye Castlen, picnic coordinator, said confusion over the booking at the Youngman Center, partly caused by the deployment of 170 members of the Kentucky National Guard's 206th Engineer Battalion to the Middle East on July 26, caused the cancellation.

She said the dinner had been at that location for the past two years.

Castlen said she went to the center last spring to make the arrangements.

"They told me it would work," she said.

But Castlen said the people at the center said they couldn't sign a contract then because of the upcoming deployment.

"They were operating with a skeleton crew," she said.

Castlen said she went to the center several times during the summer to try to finalize arrangements but was never able to find anyone there until Tuesday.

When she went to make final arrangements, she said, the person in charge said he didn't know what she was talking about.

"It was major confusion," she said. "I'm just sick about it."

Maj. Stephen Martin, public information officer for the Kentucky National Guard, said a sign on the door of the readiness center has a phone number for people to call if no one is available.

Castlen said they showed her the sign on Tuesday, but she hadn't noticed it before.

"We're a community center," Martin said. "We try to host events for people. But we didn't have a contract, and we had already rented it to someone else."

He said, "We feel terrible that this happened and hurt her event. We hate that it fell through. But we didn't have a contract."

Castlen said Jacqueline Coleman, Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor; Heather French Henry, nominee for secretary of state; Greg Stumbo, nominee for attorney general; Sheri Donahue, nominee for auditor; and Robert Conway, nominee for agriculture commissioner, were all scheduled to speak.

"I'm having to call them all and cancel," she said.

Donna Haynes, local Democratic chairwoman, said the Sportscenter and all other venues capable of holding the dinner were already booked for this weekend.

With the election coming up on Nov. 5, there wasn't time to reschedule, she said.

Castlen said that instead of the dinner, local Democrats will host a new pre-election event -- The Wendell Ford Democratic Rally -- at one of the city parks on Nov. 2.

"We'll be cooking hamburgers and hot dogs," she said.

Money will be refunded to those who had already bought the $15 tickets to the barbecued chicken dinner, an announcement said.

The Democratic Party's biggest event began in August 1970 at the Windy Hollow Recreation Area in western Daviess County, when Ford was lieutenant governor.

A few years later, after being plagued by rain and hot weather, it moved to the Sportscenter and later shifted to fall to be closer to the general election.

The picnic was renamed in Ford's honor in 1998, the year he retired from the U.S. Senate.

Its largest crowd -- about 600 people -- in recent years was in 2006, when then-U.S. Sen. and later Vice President Joe Biden spoke.

Ford died in 2015 at age 90.

Keith Lawrence, 270-691-7301, klawrence@messenger-inquirer.com

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