Aug 8, 2017 1:55 PM
Confederate flags, 'Black Flies Matter' shirts leave some NH county fairgoers disgusted
SWANZEY — Thousands of people attended the 4-day-long Cheshire Fair, but some vendors have turned them from coming back.
People took to the fair's Facebook page following the events that lasted from Aug. 3-6 to share their dismay for vendors selling Confederate flags and "Black Flies Matter" T-shirts.
"This is an event that is open to the public, and all people should feel safe and welcomed when in attendance. That cannot be possible with such symbols of hatred clearly displayed. I will not support an event that allows ignorant and hurtful vendors," Jess Parker wrote in her one-star review.
Laurie Burt, the president of the Cheshire Fair for the past two years, said she is a proponent of freedom of speech, and that those who did not like those items simply did not have to buy them.
Two vendors who have participated in the fair for multiple years sold Confederate flags in their purchased lot as a result of supply and demand, Burt said. One of those vendors is a black woman who has been selling for 30 years.
According to a 2015 CNN poll, 72 percent of African Americans viewed the Confederate flag as a symbol of racism, while 25 percent of Caucasians agreed.
"The confederate flag is wildly innapropriate (sic) to fly at a New Hampshire County fair," Ryanne Asher wrote in her one-star review.
Burt and her husband have fielded several phone calls of people calling the flags racist. One woman called upset claiming the Cheshire County Republicans' lot was flying one of the flags, but Burt assured that the adjacent lot flew the flag, not the Republicans.
The male vendor who sold the Confederate flags also sold the "Black Flies Matter" T-shirts, which some called hateful.
"This is tacky and insulting to all people of color and their allies," wrote Angela Barlow in her 1-star review.
Burt, who picks the vendors to sell at the fair, said she reviewed the T-shirt with the vice president and former president and did not find an issue with the shirt.
"It's a play on words, and if you're sensitive to that, then you need to take the word 'black' out of everything," Burt said.
Some took to Facebook and wrote that these two items deterred them from attending the fair. Others demanded that people boycott until something is done.
"The Cheshire Fair organizers and sponsors are seemingly tolerant of open bigotry and hatred. The perpetrators should be ejected from the fair or, failing that, the fair itself should be boycotted," N.H. State Rep. Sherry Frost wrote in her 1-star review.
Black Lives Matter of New Hampshire also asked people to contact the fair to let them know they "will not support an event that condones the display of racist propaganda and creates an unsafe environment for black folks and all people of color."
Even with the backlash, Burt said these two items did not affect business this year, adding that others did not seem to mind the selling of the Confederate flags or T-shirts.
"This is NH go ahead and display the confederate (sic) flag. We embrace the veterans of the civil war (sic) and respect the history behind it. Also we are the live free or die state. So keep living free," AJ Evarts wrote in his 5-star review.
Ryan Lawliss attended the fair Sunday and has seen items like the Confederate flag at other fairs before. He said most of the reviews he's read on Facebook seem to be from people that never actually attended the fair.
"I feel that they are being bullies. One individual is clearly not from this country," Lawliss said. "People preach being tolerant and not discriminating when they themselves are doing it. I think individuals are very passionate about how they feel and want others to see it too. That is one great thing about our country. I just feel if individuals didn't actually attend the fair, why are you giving it a review?"