By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN
BG Independent News
Two years ago, the Ohio State Fair stopped allowing the confederate flag to be displayed or sold at the fairgrounds in Columbus. No blanket ruling was made for other fair operations in the state.
Some county fairs in Ohio joined suit, and ruled that confederate flags would no longer be allowed on grounds. Others – like Wood County Fair – continue to allow confederate flags to be flown, displayed and sold by private vendors.
“I think it’s something they at least should take into consideration,” Doris Herringshaw, president of the Wood County Board of Commissioners, said of the ban adopted by other county fair boards. “Given what’s happening in the country, it’s important to take a serious look at it.”
Multiple calls to fair board members were not returned.
Karen Wood, a Bowling Green citizen, noticed confederate flags at the Wood County fair earlier this month and asked that they be removed. The fair board met to discuss the request and decided to take no action, Wood said.
This was a battle already fought by Wood County residents, Wood said.
“Union Hill and Oak Grove Cemeteries are full of Union veterans who fought the racist traitors of the Confederacy,” she said.
So Wood took the present-day battle to Facebook, to a meeting of Not In Our Town Bowling Green last week, and to a community rally on Sunday to stand with the residents of Charlottesville, Virginia.
“I was shocked at the number of confederate flags,” Wood said to the crowd gathered Sunday on the city’s Wooster Green. “We’re Charlottesville, we just haven’t had a car drive through at crowd yet.”
Wood encouraged others at the rally to write letters to the Wood County Agricultural Society Board, asking the group to ban confederate flags on the fairgrounds.
“I refuse to get used to it,” she said. “If they’re not banning confederate flags, they are condoning them.”
Racists often defend the confederate flag as a symbol of state’s rights, Wood said. But as Gordon Ray, a Southern historian pointed out, the Confederate states were established explicitly to preserve and expand the institution of slavery, she said. Alexander Stephens, the Confederacy’s vice president, said the same in 1861, in unambiguous terms, Wood said.
History teacher Joe Boyle, of Bowling Green, also balked at the notion that confederate flags should be revered historic symbols. At Sunday’s rally, Boyle said the nation needs to own its role in slavery. He said it “chafes” him every time he sees a confederate flag. Though he loves history, he suggested people seek out true historic heroes – those who found against slavery in the Civil War and against the Nazis in World War II.
“The heroes we need are among us,” Boyle said, listing off soldiers from the region who played roles in fighting racism in both wars.
Wood questioned how those local veterans feel about the confederate flag being flown on their fairgrounds.
“It is time for our Wood County Agricultural Society Board to think carefully about the image it wishes to present,” Wood said.
The fair board’s website lists policies for the fair, but none mention confederate flags. Following is a list of general fair board policies as listed on the organization’s website:
- No pets allowed on fairgrounds.
- No bicycles, skateboards, roller blades, or roller skates allowed on the fairgrounds during the fair.
- No weapons in buildings.
- The Wood County Fair, its agents, servants, and employees shall not be held liable in case of injury to exhibitors, concessionaires, or the public on the grounds or in the buildings from any cause whatsoever while on the grounds of the Wood County Fair.
- Every possible protection and courtesy will be extended to all at the Wood County Fair, but the Wood County Fair Board/Wood County Agricultural Society will not be responsible for any loss or exhibits, animals, or equipment in case of fire, theft, or from loss from any other cause.
- The committee and fair board cannot be responsible for exhibits lost, damaged or left at the fair, however, exhibits will be protected as much as possible.
- No laser beams articles of any type allowed on the fairgrounds.
- No political posters or displays permitted outside of booths and/or political buildings.
“I have been attending county fairs for over 50 years. Sadly, this one will be my last. I hope other Wood County citizens who find this flag abhorrent will think seriously about attending events where this flag is flown,” Wood stated.