October 23, 2021

Cortland, Tompkins fairs won’t allow sale of Confederate flags

Confederate ban

Travis Dunn/contributing photographer

Lisa Sharpe, of Footbridge Farm in Truxton, washes Secret, her 2-year-old Jersey cow, in preparation for all-ages competition Sunday and Monday prior to the Cortland County Junior Fair, which begins Wednesday.

Fairs in Cortland and Tompkins counties will not allow the sale of Confederate flags or merchandise featuring this flag, according to volunteers associated with Fair for All, a campaign focused on eliminating the sale of the symbols from county fairs across the state.

Todd Dreyer, of Norwich, said volunteers have reached out to every county fair in the state in an attempt to get agreements from fair officials not to allow sale of the Confederate flag.

“Sometimes we get no reply, other times we get a polite reply,” said Dreyer, spokesman for Hate Spoils the Fun, a group working in cooperation with Fair for All.

Dreyer said Confederate flags can be “a very popular item,” and that’s why they were being sold at some fairs.

“Our view is, let’s not introduce our young people into this culture of white supremacy,” he said. “That’s our whole focus. What people do in the privacy of their own homes … is their business.We’re just focused on county fairs.”

Fair for All started in 2017 in an effort to ban the sale of the Confederate flag from being sold at the Delaware County Fair. From there, the group gathered volunteers and spread across the state, according to Christopher Hanna, an organizer for the group who lives in Ithaca.

Sale of Confederate flags and merchandise would not be allowed at the Cortland County Junior Fair, which starts Tuesday, said Richard Bush, superintendent of the fair. However, he said such merchandise has not been sold at past fairs.

“So that’s an issue that’s somewhere else, not here,” he said.

Junior Fair to feature veggie cars, fireworks

The Cortland County Junior Fair will begin Tuesday. Carnival rides open at 5 p.m. Wednesday.

The annual fair, which follows an all-ages cow show that was held Sunday and today, will feature competitive events for children, including judging of chickens, cows, goats, rabbits, pigs, horses and other livestock. Cattle shows will run on Thursday and Friday.

A Fair Queen contest will be held Tuesday starting at 7 p.m., followed by barnyard games at 8 p.m.

The fair will also feature the popular “veggie car” race, said Richard Bush, superintendent of the fair. This race features kids racing zucchini on wheels — similar to boxcar derby races, but with zucchini, he said. The race will be held at 11 a.m. Wednesday.

The John West Trio Band will play on Friday night from 8 to 10 p.m., and the Brianna Banks and Chad Mac Band on Saturday
night, beginning at 7:30 p.m.

The fair will run through Saturday and culminate Saturday night with fireworks from 10 to 10:30 p.m.

Bush said the fair will abide with state Department of Agriculture recommendations on the issue.

“We’re following the state rules on that one,” he said.

New York does not have an official rule regarding Confederate flag sales at fairs, because county fairs are run by private entities, according to Dave Bullock, spokesman for the state Department of Agriculture.

Nonetheless, state Agriculture Commissioner Richard Ball sent a letter to county fair boards in August 2018 urging them “to follow the Great New York State Fair’s lead by asking their vendors to not sell items that may offend or pose a public health or safety concern,” Bullock said in a statement.

“New York stands firm against all forms of racism, bias and intolerance,” Bullock said. “Fairs celebrate our heritage and diversity, and we have received only positive feedback and support — with vendors voluntarily agreeing to comply with the request to create welcoming, safe and positive environments by fostering tolerance, inclusion and respect.”