Father’s Country Hams and owner Charles Gatton, Jr. won the Kentucky State Fair Ham Show Grand Prize Championship.

Gatton said they entered five hams and won two classes along with the grand prize. The five classes consisted of aged ham, shorter aged ham, two weight classes and a cut class.

“The grandsons helped guide us to select our final hams,” said Gatton.

This year, Gatton said he and his wife, Lori, called in their grandsons to help with the selection process. He said he told the boys it was like judging a beauty contest, “pick out the prettiest ham.”

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Each of the five grandsons judged the hams on a scale from best to worst, and that information was used to choose the hams they entered, said Gatton.

Gatton said they are really glad to have this coveted prize again this year. He said they have had a lot of close calls over the years where they have come in second to the grand champion ham but just not quite there.

This is the fourth time Father’s Country Hams has brought home the Grand Champion blue ribbon during years 1964, 1979, 1989 and 2015.

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In 1964, Charles Gatton, Sr. won the very first Kentucky State Fair Country Ham Show. That year, there were 98 country ham entries and they were all shapes and sizes, said Gatton. He said there was no consistency with the shaping or the size of the hams that first year like in today’s show.

Gatton said at that time, his mom, Lorene Gatton, was raising money to convert an old building in Bremen into a community center. She was selling candy and other items to raise the money, but when his dad won the KSF ham show that year, Gatton, Sr. gave the money for the auctioned ham to his wife’s charitable cause. The auctioned ham in 1964 brought $8 per pound for a $124 total. That was the beginning of the auction process that has raised more than $9 million for charitable organizations since 1964.

Gatton said after being selected as a winner, the ham belongs to the State Fair Board and they conduct an annual auction on the second Thursday of the fair as part of Kentucky Farm Bureau Day.

Gatton’s ham brought $400,000, and was purchased by Republic Bank of Louisville. The winning bidder traditionally picks the charity or organization and this year’s proceeds will go to charitable organizations that deal with health care, well being and education.

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Last year, the top ham brought $2 million but that was a group purchase with four bidders combining their money to get the winning bid. This year’s winning bid at $400,000 is the largest individual bid from a single buyer.

“We were really pleased with the bid our ham brought, and it s great they can take the sale of the ham and help different charities and organizations,” said Gatton.

“Our ham is cheap, when compared to the auction price of $28.517 per pound,” said Gatton.

For more about Father's Country Hams, see here.

Tammy Holloway
SurfKY News Reporter