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Ky. State Fair Cancels Pipe Contest

August 16, 2002

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) _ The cotton candy and farm animal exhibits will remain, but visitors to this year’s Kentucky State Fair might miss the sweet smell of pipe tobacco.

Although the pipe tobacco smoking contest has been a fair attraction for more than 40 years, it won’t be part of this year’s fair, which began its 11-day run on Thursday.

Contestants in previous years’ contests won by smoking for the longest time without relighting. Most winners could keep their pipes lit for 100 to 120 minutes.

Gayle Sallee, owner of Kremer’s Smoke Shoppe and a former contest sponsor, said fair officials advised him the event was canceled because they didn’t want smoke in the exhibition building. It was too late to rent another space or tent for the contest, he said.

``I felt like, we’re a tobacco state, we should be promoting tobacco,″ he said. ``I thought it was totally wrong, especially in a state like Kentucky.″

The state is the leader in production of burley tobacco, a $436 million crop last year for Kentucky’s tobacco farmers.

Amanda Storment, a spokeswoman for the Kentucky State Fair Board, acknowledged fair officials wanted to move the event outside but said the contest won’t be held for several reasons.

The fair board wants to find more sponsors for the contest, and another exhibitor is using the space that would be needed, Storment said.

Officials also wanted to phase out the contest, at least for this year, because it wasn’t drawing a large audience, Storment said.

But Sallee said the contest drew more participants and spectators each year.

``In my opinion it’s one of the most popular; we always had a big crowd,″ he said. ``We’re just a bunch of regular Kentucky guys who want to smoke, and they won’t let us.″

State Rep. Denver Butler, a Louisville Democrat and member of the General Assembly’s Tobacco Task Force, said he was surprised to hear of the decision to eliminate the contest.

``That just doesn’t make sense to me,″ Butler said. ``It’s not like they’re out there promoting it and saying try this and try that.″

Butler said the contest was a tradition and he expects a controversy when the decision becomes widely known.

``I’m sure we’ll hear about that. I imagine the tobacco task force will take that up,″ Butler said.


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Kentucky State Fair: http://www.kystatefair.org/

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