Vernon County Fair bans Confederate battle flag
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Vernon County Fair bans Confederate battle flag

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VIROQUA — The Vernon County Fair has banned the sale of Confederate battle flags.

John McClelland Jr. is the vice president of the Vernon County Fair, a nonprofit organization. He said the 11-member board voted to bar the vending of confederate flags in June.

“As a board, we decided it wasn’t a necessary item,” McClelland said in reference to the flag. “It’s a piece of our history, but someone got their feelings hurt. So we decided not to sell it.”

McClelland said people have contacted him upset over the board’s decision, and that when he thinks of the Confederate battle flag, he thinks of the television show “The Dukes of Hazzard,” which first aired during the late 1970s, and not of racism or hate.

“It goes both ways,” McClelland said. “You make two people happy and 50 people get angry.”

Banning the sales of Confederate insignia is part of national trend. Across the country, especially in southern states, memorials and statues honoring confederate soldiers and leaders have been removed from public spaces.

In 2015, South Carolina legislators voted to remove the Confederate battle flag from the statehouse grounds. More recently, the New Orleans City Council removed a 16-foot bronze figure of Gen. Robert E. Lee — the Confederacy’s best-known hero.

Last year, local resident Mark Kastel approached a vendor at the fair whose goods included the confederate flag, Kastel said. When he confronted the vendor for selling the flag, Kastel said the vendor became intimidating and began cursing.

“It angers me personally because I consider (the Confederate battle flag) a symbol of hate,” Kastel said. “Family members of mine who were active in the Civil Rights Movement were beaten up in the past.”

Kastel said he filed a police report against the vendor, and petitioned the Fair Board to ban the flag’s sale at a meeting last winter.

Kastel said the Vernon County Fair, although it is run by a nonprofit organization, receives county assistance and should be treated as a public — not private — event, and therefore should keep everyone feeling safe and secure.

Despite the board approving the ban, Kastel said many members were less than enthusiastic when hearing his argument.

“I just don’t have a lot of sympathy for people who claim that (the Confederate battle flag) is some important part of their heritage,” he told the Vernon County Broadcaster. “I’m asking the board to be conciliatory to everybody in the community. Even if there is one person negatively affected by this, that’s too many.”

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