ELYRIA — The Lorain County Fair Board decided last year to continue to allow the sale of the Confederate flag at the fairgrounds, but a group calling itself the Fair Minded Coalition of Lorain County has renewed a push to ban the flag.
“To some Americans, the Confederate flag is merely a historical artifact of a defeated insurgency which sought to split our United States, but to many Americans, specifically African Americans, the Confederate flag is a symbol of slavery, hatred and racism,” Jeanine Donaldson wrote in a letter she read to the county commissioners during a meeting Wednesday.
Donaldson, who serves as the newly formed organization’s chairwoman, asked the commissioners to use their influence as nonvoting members of the Fair Board to advocate to have the flag banned. She said she and others plan to attend a Feb. 9 meeting of the Fair Board to ask them to reconsider.
Commissioner Matt Lundy, a Democrat, touched off the controversy in the middle of fair week in August when he asked the Fair Board to force vendors to stop selling the flag at the fairgrounds. When the Fair Board refused, Lorain County Democratic Party Chairman Anthony Giardini shut down his party’s booth at the fair in protest.
Then-Fair Board President Kim Meyers defended the decision at the time as a matter of free speech. He said at the time that the Fair Board had considered banning the sale as the Ohio State Fair had done, but decided against it. The Fair Board reviewed the issue a second time after the fair ended and again decided to allow the flag to be sold.
No one showed up at the Fair Board’s September meeting to support a ban.
Donaldson said after Wednesday’s meeting that the right thing to do would be for the Fair Board to impose a ban on vendors selling the flag, something she argued could be done under the fair’s bylaws and guidelines for vendors. She said she understands the Fair Board is a private organization, but that doesn’t mean they should allow the Confederate flag to be sold on its grounds.
“Just because you can do something doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do,” she said.
Fair Board President Brian Twining said anyone is welcome to come to next month’s meeting and discuss whatever issues they like, but that doesn’t mean the Fair Board will change its policy.
“We’re always open to listen,” he said. “That doesn’t mean they’ll be totally satisfied.”
Twining said the Fair Board already has reviewed its policies and made a decision.
“Our policy hasn’t changed,” he said. “We dealt with this before last year’s fair, and nothing has come in to make the Fair Board members feel that it needs to be addressed again.”
The Rev. Paul Wilson, pastor of First United Methodist Church in Wellington, where the fair is held, told the commissioners he grew up in the South and knows what the Confederate flag stands for and doesn’t believe it should be displayed.
He said it wouldn’t have made sense to display and sell the Confederate flag at the Lorain County Fair in the 1860s and 1870s while the Civil War was going on and after it was over when wounded Union soldiers were coming home.
“This is Ohio, where soldiers died for people’s freedom,” he said.
Lundy said he remains adamantly opposed to allowing the Confederate flag to be sold at the fair.
“At a family oriented event like the county fair, there’s really no need to have a divisive symbol,” he said.