Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes' oft-discussed campaign bus was nowhere to be found at the Roots and Heritage parade in Lexington on Saturday.
She didn't need it.
Grimes, and the family affair that is her Senate campaign, danced, hugged, high-fived and photo-op'ed around the parade route, soaking up shouts of love and support at one of Lexington's largest black festivals.
In step behind a marching band, Grimes and her husband, along with her mother and father, appeared to be walking among the faithful. Children and adults, many of whom said they recognized Grimes from her commercials, cheered on Grimes in her race against Republican U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
As Grimes walked among the cars and trucks in line and waiting for the parade to start, she paused repeatedly for photographs, words of encouragement and even a little dancing.
After teaching the children of Community Inspired Solutions, seated in the bed of a Chevy Silverado, to look at a campaign video camera and say "Ditch Mitch," Grimes found ardent supporters, obviously familiar with Grimes' anti-McConnell platform, in the Paul Dunbar Class of 1962 truck.
"Get that boy up out of there," said Bernice Thomas, seated in a rocking chair on a flatbed trailer. "Get Mitch out of there. Thirty years is too long."
Grimes responded to Thomas that "together, we'll rock and roll our way to Washington."
Leading the way for most of the parade, Tanya Fogle, with a bullhorn and endless energy in the late-summer heat, repeatedly introduced Grimes as Kentucky's next U.S. senator, leading chants and trying to excite onlookers who gathered on sidewalks and front porches.
Always behind Grimes on the parade route, shuffling and sweating from one side of the street to the other while throwing bubble gum and hugging people on their porches, Jerry Lundergan, the candidate's father, appeared to be working just as hard as Grimes.
"How are you?" Lundergan said to one group gathered on the street. "Hope you'll vote for my daughter."
Lundergan's company, Signature Special Event Services, has been the source of headaches for the campaign in recent weeks after Politico revealed that the campaign bus Grimes has used since getting into the race was purchased by Lundergan and rented to the campaign at a questionable rate, a potential violation of federal campaign finance law.
The Grimes campaign struggled to explain how it arrived at the value it ascribed to the bus, providing an opening of attack for the McConnell campaign that was only exacerbated when the Courier-Journal reported late last month that database searches showed that Lundergan's company did not appear to be licensed to carry people by either the U.S. Department of Transportation or the state Transportation Cabinet.
Republicans filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission, but Grimes said she had asked her compliance team "to review and re-review, and I'm assured that everything the campaign can do on their end has been done," according to WDRB in Louisville.
On Saturday, Grimes was asked about the permitting issue, and the candidate put distance between herself and her father's company.
"Well now, you're asking a question about a bus that we don't own and permits that we can't obtain," Grimes said. "We've done everything on the campaign's end that we can and should do."
After Lundergan hustled in the heat to the front of the handful of supporters and campaign staff walking behind Grimes to offer her some water, he then offered some to a reporter but declined to comment on whether he had straightened out the permitting issues.
"You'll have to ask the campaign all those questions," Lundergan said.
About two hours later, an email from Alissa Tibe, another of Lundergan's five daughters and vice president of development and special projects at Signature Special Event Services, arrived in the Herald-Leader's inbox.
"Please be advised that all necessary permits have been obtained through the U.S. Department of Transportation with regards to the bus which our company owns and rents to the Grimes campaign," Tibe wrote.
She did not respond to a follow-up email asking when the permits were requested and obtained.
Though McConnell has run ads attacking the campaign over what one bus vendor described to The Associated Press as a "sweetheart deal," Grimes said she plans to use the bus again.
"I'm sure we will," she said. "It helps get us around Kentucky pretty well, but I'm right here in Central Kentucky just a hop, skip and a jump away."