The Confederate Flag at the Wayne County Fair: It Is About Community


October 27, 2015

On Monday night, October 19 Westminster Presbyterian Church joined numerous concerned Wooster residents, including some from Wayne County Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, the Wooster/Orrville NAACP, and the College of Wooster Black Student Association, in asking the Wayne County Fair Board to prohibit vendors from the sale or display of confederate flags and/or confederate flag merchandise at the Wayne County Fair. This was not the first time such a request was extended to the Fair Board as on September 1, 2015, eleven days before the start of the fair on September 12, the Wooster/Orrville NAACP chairperson, Juanita Greene wrote a letter to the Fair Board after they had not responded to previous pleas from individuals. In her letter, Mrs. Greene wrote:

 “Dear Wayne County Fair Board,

In the spirit of creating an atmosphere of welcome for all our citizens at the Wayne County Fair, we, the Wooster/Orrville NAACP, ask you to prohibit the sale or display of confederate flags and/or confederate flag merchandise starting 2015.  As an organization in Wooster and Orrville representing many people from different ethnicities and socio-economic levels, we strongly feel that such a request is for the advancement of civility and creating a culture of peace and understanding.  Also, we feel that such a request is very appropriate as a similar policy was implemented and enforced at the Ohio State Fair this year.  In a letter sent to vendors, Virgil L. Strickler, CFE General Manager stated the following:

 ‘The Ohio State Fair has long held a policy that prohibits the sale of merchandise that contains offensive wording, lettering or graphics. As such, beginning with the 2015 Ohio State Fair, the sale or display of confederate flags and/or confederate flag merchandise shall be prohibited. Any vendors found to be selling any items featuring the image of the confederate flag will be asked to promptly remove those items.’”

It is important for us to put this request in the larger context of our nation as Henri Gendreau reports in The Columbus Dispatch on Thursday July 2, 2015 in an article entitled, Confederate flag still flies at county fairs:

“As retailers across the country — including Walmart, Amazon and eBay — end sales of the flag after the racially-motivated shootings of nine African-American churchgoers in Charleston, S.C. last month, county fairs and small-town festivals may be the last-stop shop for Confederate memorabilia.”

As a community, I think it is important for us to ask the question why county fairs, including the Wayne County Fair, have become the “last stop shop” for confederate flags and confederate flag memorabilia. One reason might be that our nation’s ethnic composition is changing rapidly. Although this change in demographics gives rise to more minorities in leadership, White Anglo Saxon Protestants are still making the decisions, especially in rural areas where our leadership does not reflect the ethnic minorities within our midst. Who is in power and makes the decisions is important, as Howard Call, executive director of the Ohio Fair Managers Association states, according to Gendreau, “that each county fair sets its own policy on what can and can’t be sold.”

For the Wayne County Fair Board to reflect the conscience of Wooster, Ohio they will have to be mindful of the ethnic minorities in our midst and how they perceive the Confederate flag. As Mrs. Greene wrote in her letter to the Fair Board:

“For us as the Wooster/Orrville NAACP, we acknowledge that the Confederate battle flag is a part of our country’s history, but we feel strongly that it is not to be celebrated. The flag represents a deeply shameful period for our nation, and the harmful, hateful effects of that time are still felt today by African Americans and the nation as a whole.  In the spirit of understanding and advancing a culture of civility, peace and understanding, we urge you that this symbol of hatred and intolerance need not be sold at the Wayne County Fair and we therefore ask you to follow the example of the Ohio State Fair in prohibiting the sale or display of confederate flags and/or confederate flag merchandise.”

The reality we face is that if the Wayne County Fair Board does not side with those within our community who plead to prohibit the sale or display of confederate flags and/or confederate flag merchandise, they give tacit approval of white supremacy and racism in Wayne County. As Henri Gendreau concludes:

“‘The Confederate battle flag is kind of kaleidoscopic in its meanings,’ said Mark Grimsley, a history professor at Ohio State University. ‘It has a number of meanings.’ Chief among those to many people is white supremacy and racism, though regional pride, Southern heritage, states’ rights and rebellion are all part of the package, he said.”

As a community, Wayne County, Ohio’s integrity rests on the decision of the Fair Board at its next meeting in November. As concerned citizens and people of faith/conscience we can no longer be silent as we have too much at stake. Contact the Wayne County Fair Board at 199 Vanover Street, PO Box 3, Wooster, Ohio 44691 and express your opinon.




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Comments (30) - Post a Comment
That flag has no viable meaning other than hate and the division of this country. It stands for hangings,rapes,murders and manby other horrorific acts falsely in the name of God. There is nothing wrong with taking pride in your heritage. But,that flag and what it stood for was defeated in the civil war. Surrender your flag and let us form a more perfect union.
james griffith jr at 8:51am EDT - October 29, 2015
Just make sure you DON'T replace it with a RAINBOW flag.
L M at 9:10pm EDT - October 30, 2015
Really? All the problems in the world and you're concerned with a flag that is a part of American history? It is a battle flag used by the Confederacy because the prior flag looked too much like the American flag used by the north. Why don't we concentrate on jobs, feeding the hungry and taking care of our veterans instead of foolish political correctness. Almost everyone is offended by something and we have to learn tolerance. Don't like Confederate flags and memorabilia? DON'T BUY IT!!! If something doesn't sell, it won't be around long. QUIT trying to use political correctness pressure to get your way when you are in the minority. Me? I'm offended by the 15% of the people who commit 50% of the violent crimes and have basically declared war on the police. But I am not calling for them to be banned from the county fair. Just sayin..............
Jeff Mackey at 6:57am EDT - October 31, 2015
Being one who is highly offended by the hatred and racism of the Confederate flag, I ask the fair board why they made such a poor decision. South Carolina finally took it down after innocent people were killed by a man waving the flag. Why would a northern mostly White town bring in this hatred? You have made Wayne County look like an ignorant village of haters.
Diane Clement at 11:57am EST - November 1, 2015
Mr Mackey all the problems in the world goes back to the mind set of the confederate flag which stands for enslavement of people in this country and hatred of people of color. History shows that the southern states under that flag were against freeing the slaves. What exactly do you see in that flag. It was carried while lynching people and burning their home. It was also a symbol used while blacks and white fought together for civil rights of African Americans in the '60s while being sprayed with fire hose and bitten by dogs. The south lost..usually when people lose they don;t continue to display a flag that lost their struggle. The North won - the South lost. We have Winners (North) and losers (South) Read your history. If you are from Ohio - we were with the Winners! It is a symbol of hatred. Just like the Swastika. Get real!
Juanita Greene at 5:10am EST - November 7, 2015
Ms. Greene, you are entitled to your opinion and free to express it. So are others. The confederate battle flag is a part of history albeit a sad part of America's history. But if you read your history the civil war was fought over the states right to rule themselves, free from federal oversight. The southern states fought for home rule which is utilized in law even today. The mind set of the confederate flag is individualism and freedom from federal rule. In todays world we see the inadequacy of the federal government to rule sensibly and within their budget. Slavery has been dead for over 150 years. It should be. But the bottom line is political correctness is destroying this country. Muslims are offended, people of color are offended, liberals are offended and we are all expected to change the world to suit them. Where does it all stop? Someone is going to be offended no matter what. The true symbol of hatred is not a flag, it is intolerance. As long as we bow to hatred and race baiting things will not improve. If we practice tolerance and love then things will improve. That is getting real Ms. Greene. I have read your letters to the editor in the Daily Record and I clearly see where you stand. If you don't like something, speak out against it. That's your right! By the way, I don't have a confederate flag. But the 1st Amendment gives everyone the right to free speech and expression of their opinions including those who want to fly a confederate flag.
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