WOOSTER, Ohio — Fair boards across the state of Ohio have had to make several hard decisions lately, including whether or not to hold a county fair this summer due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In Wayne County, the decision weighing on organizers was what to do about the Confederate flag, which has long been sold and displayed as part of the fair. Late on Monday, the decision came in a letter posted on the Wayne County Fair's website and Facebook page.
The flag will not be allowed.
"Over the past few years, the Wayne County Fair Board has been in the middle of a debate. One side asking us to ban the display and sale of the Confederate flag and one side asking us to preserve the 1st Amendment Freedom of Speech," the fair board wrote.
"After careful consideration of all aspects in regards to this topic that include safety and security as well as the patrons that are affected by our decisions, we believe that this is the time to support our community and especially those who protect and serve us. The Wayne County Fair Board has made the decision to not allow the sale of or the displaying of the Confederate flag and/or memorabilia and other related items by our vendors at the Wayne County Fair."
In addition to pressure from the community, the Wooster City School District's Board of Education was set to vote Tuesday night on a measure that would have "restricted marketing and school district participation at the 2020 Wayne County Fair due to the sale of offensive merchandise (Confederate Flag)."
Last week, vendors at the Medina County Fair mutually agreed to no longer sell or display the Confederate flag.
"The Medina County Fair welcomes all visitors, exhibitors, volunteers as well as concessionaires, and the Board is very sensitive to the social issues related to the Confederate flag," the board said in a statement.
The society stresses that this is not a "ban" on the flag's presence at the fair, as they claim such a measure could be "subject to Constitutional challenges." Instead, the chairperson of the board spoke with vendors, and all agreed to "voluntarily" stop displaying or selling it.
The Confederate flag has come under increased scrutiny following the death of George Floyd and subsequent protest, with many decrying its ties to racism and the pro-slavery South during the Civil War. An amendment that would've banned the sale of the flag at all Ohio's county fairs was introduced in the State House of Representatives, but the Republican-led chamber voted it down.
The Wayne County Fair will be held from September 12-17, 2020.