(CNN) - The major powerbrokers of Kentucky politics gathered Saturday for the annual Fancy Farm Picnic, a rough and tumble political event in which candidates serve up their best stemwinder and hope it's not drowned out by the raucous audience.
At this year's event, Senate hopefuls Rand Paul and Jack Conway were joined onstage by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, and much to the delight of the crowd, the three heavyweights each took their turn slinging one-liners.
If a candidate overruns their allotted speaking time at Fancy Farm, they are shooed offstage by a band, just like the Academy Awards. And the gathering is probably the only political event in the country that features an opening prayer that includes the line: "Lord, may our words be gracious and tender today, for tomorrow we might have to eat them."
Last year, the event gained notoriety after Democratic Attorney General Jack Conway overstepped the established rules and used a forbidden word, telling the audience he is "one tough son of a bitch."
Paul, an ophthalmologist from Bowling Green, will face Conway in November's general election.
On Saturday, the candidates went to town, with Paul and McConnell focusing just as much on the Democratic establishment in Washington as they did on Conway.
And even though McConnell had endorsed Paul's opponent for the party nomination, the veteran senator delivered a full-throated endorsement of the Tea Party favorite.
"We need Rand Paul to keep us from drowning in a sea of debt," a very animated McConnell said before adding, "Rand Paul has spent his entire professional career helping people out of ambulances. Jack Conway has spent his professional career chasing ambulances."
Conway was not to be outdone, however, delivering a biting line about Paul.
"This is an important election," Conway said. "It's not about me and it's not about a waffling pessimist who just wants to be the prince of cable T.V."
Rhetoric at Fancy Farm can become overheated, but the event plays an important role in Kentucky politics, serving as the unofficial kickoff to the general election campaign season. Saturday's event is the 130th time the event has been held.