Whistlin' Dixie: Fairgoers "appalled" at racist items
Waunema Smith was strolling with her children toward the rides at this year's Albemarle County Fair when some booths to the left caught her eye. Her boyfriend, Colten Noakes, checked them out and came back to warn, "Don't go over there because there's some stickers with heavy racial sentiment."
The booth he referred to was festooned with Confederate paraphernalia: t-shirts and bumper stickers ablaze with the Confederate battle flag.
Some proclaimed "Pride, not hate." Another one advised, "Unless you're naked, don't touch my truck."
"I've seen that kind of stuff at the fair before and thought, hey, it's the county," says Noakes.
But one bumper sticker adorned with the Confederate flag made Noakes cringe: "Work. It's a white thing."
He calls it "downright racist." Smith didn't want her six- and eight-year-old children anywhere near the booth. "I was appalled there was something I had to keep them from at the Fair," she says. "The fair should be for everyone."
Barbara Shifflett, president of the Fair, confirms that Smith and Noakes were not the only ones offended. "We do not allow racial things like those stickers," says Shifflett. "It was in direct violation of our contract."
After complaints on the first day, Shifflett says the vendors were told to put away the offensive items. But by the last day of the Fair, the "white thing" bumper stickers had reappeared, generating more complaints from fairgoers.
Shifflett would not reveal the name of the vendor. She says the question of the vendor's being allowed to participate in future fairs is on the agenda for the Fair's new slate of board members.
This was not the only vendor who wanted to proclaim his Southern heritage a little too loudly. Another was ejected from the Fair before it opened because he refused to take down his Confederate flag while setting up, reports Shifflett.
Flying the Southern Cross is a major no-no at the Fair. Even at the Civil War camp, where it could be considered part of a historical display, "We asked them not to fly the Confederate flag," says Shifflett.
Shifflett stresses that the "white thing" situation will be dealt with, and says that Fair organizers intend to "keep a wholesome family atmosphere."
That's what troubled fairgoer Susan McKibbin. She worried about black families with their kids seeing the same items she and her children were shocked to encounter. "They shouldn't have to be exposed to that," she says.