WELLINGTON, Ohio — As the Lorain County Fair returns, so does the controversy.
The annual event, taking place this Aug. 19-25, will once again allow Confederate flags to be sold at the fair this year.
LEON BIBB COMMENTARY: Controversy swirls over Confederate flag sales at Lorain County Fair
In the past, groups have protested the continued sale of the flag, which many feel is a symbol of racism due to its associations with southern secession during the Civil War. The Fair Minded Coalition of Lorain County has posted a billboard for the second year in a row, speaking out against the flag and the fair.
However, the fair has not budged, and the flag will continue to be sold at the fair. Officials say it is a matter of free speech.
"I don't see anything wrong with selling them, me personally," vendor Russell Bissett, whose stand sold the flag last year, told WKYC. "You have a choice, you don't have to buy it if you don't want it. If you want it, you can buy it."
Kim Meyers, a member of the Lorain County Fair Board, says he understands the criticism, but adds he doesn't believe the flag is a symbol of racism.
"We look at it as a historical symbol from one side of the Civil War," he said.
Meyers says there are guidelines the fair board follows, which ban merchandise that is offensive. He says he and the board doesn't believe the flag is, adding there are more things sold than just the confederate flag by the vendor.
"We made the decision that selling the Civil War memorabilia because it's not just the Confederate, it's also the Union stuff," he said."It's permissible."
Sam Felton, a Vietnam war veteran who lives in Lorain County, says the flag is offensive and it should not be sold at the fair.
"You don't continuously make a living off of something that symbolizes, hate separatism and racism," Felton said.
Jeanine Donaldson, who is with the Fair Minded Coalition, agrees, says it's not a black or white issue, but a community standards issue. She says there was a time where you can buy racist memorabilia of black people during the Jim Crow south, but times have changed. Donaldson says this is no different.
"[The Confederate flag] does not represent the values of the people of Lorain County," she said.
Donaldson hopes this year will be the last it's sold at the fair.
"I think over time we are going to change hearts and minds," she said.
But Meyers says he doesn't believe that will happen.
"if you go through everything people find objectionable pretty soon you have nothing" he said. "This gentleman sells Pittsburgh Steelers shirts, but we're Browns fans."
In 2015, the Ohio State Fair decided to ban the sale of Confederate flags. That same year, major retailers such as Walmart, Amazon Ebay and more decided to stop selling the flag as well.