Sale of the Confederate flag won’t end this year at the Lorain County Fair, but neither will opposition to the practice.
The Fair Minded Coalition of Lorain County’s Jeanine Donaldson attended the fair board’s meeting May 9 to reiterate her group’s opposition to the flag and its place at the annual event.
She doesn’t think her latest plea changed any minds but invited the board to hold an open conversation on the subject in the future.
“I was there to let them know we’re not going away and to extend the offer to have a dialogue on it,” she said. “Frankly, I’m not even sure they’ve discussed it as a board. I asked about procedure or a committee this could go to. I wanted to be on record for 2017 saying we want the policy changed.”
This past fall, Donaldson spoke with the Wellington Kiwanis Club and said she was well-received. “These don’t have to be hostile talks,” she said.
The Fair Minded Coalition is made up of 20 organizations and churches in the area, including the Community Foundation of Lorain County, which has decided to end its financial contributions to the fair.
“The Community Foundation is one of our biggest donors in Lorain County,” she said. “Every year, they’d normally give money to support the fair. This year, they had a discussion and decided the sale of the flag was counter to their beliefs as an organization.”
The coalition has not made formal plans to protest selling the Confederate flag at this year’s fair. But she said the thought has crossed the minds of many people in the area.
“I can’t control my troops,” she said. “We have people who think we should be proactive and show up to protest. We’ll see which road we decide to go down.”
The group has reached out to the Ohio State University Extension, which aids youth agriculture and consumer science programs all over the state. That includes Wellington 4-H chapters and the Junior Fair.
The goal, said Donaldson, was to make sure extension and 4-H volunteers know where their dollars are going. “They should be able to make an informed decision on if they’re comfortable sending young people out to the fairgrounds when these kinds of policies are supported.”
Lorain County Fair board president Brian Twining said members’ stance on the subject remains unchanged.
“The board has discussed it and we’re going with the same as before,” he said. “We have the same stance as we had last year. We’re focused in on this year’s fair. The board has made a decision and that’s what we’re going to do.”
In 2015, the Ohio State Fair and organizations such as NASCAR, Wal-Mart, Amazon, Sears, and eBay stopped selling Confederate memorabilia. Just last year, the Southern Baptist Convention, which was founded as a pro-slavery organization in 1845, voted to condemn use of the flag.
Donaldson said she’s been repeatedly told by fair board members the sale of the flag is a matter of freedom of speech.
“This is not a freedom of speech issue,” she said. “Within their own bylaws, the fair board has the ability to ask vendors to not sell Confederate memorabilia. The Ohio State Fair pulled it off without incident. No one sued them or said their free speech was violated.”
Earlier this month in New Orleans, La., protesters clashed over the city’s decision to remove Confederate monuments. On May 13 and 14, two separate rallies were held in Charlottesville, Va., one in opposition to the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee and one in support of it.
“We can nip that kind of stuff in the bud here in Lorain County,” she said. “The things happening down south are a direct reflection on our change in political leadership. A lot of these feelings were just below the surface and never really went away.”
Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.