ASHLAND -- As of Wednesday evening, 584 individuals have signed a petition urging Ashland County leadership to ban the display and sale of merchandise depicting the Confederate flag at the Ashland County Fair.
In a petition launched last Friday through change.org, Ashland resident Rebecca Parillo calls on the Ashland County Commissioners and the Ashland County Fair Board to take a stand against the controversial symbol at the fair, which is set to run Sept. 20 to 26.
“For many people, including myself, the rebel flag is a symbol of slavery and white supremacy. This image is a symbol of racism and creates an unwelcome environment for fair attendees,” Parillo said in the petition.
According to fair board manager Steve Englet, this is not an issue for the Ashland County Fair because he has never seen the Confederate flag sold at the local fair.
Only once did someone report seeing the flag for sale, Englet said. The report came in after the fair was over and was not able to be connected to any specific vendor.
“It has not been a problem, and I don’t want to make it a problem,” Englet said.
He is aware of the petition and said it would be brought to the Ashland Fair Board for discussion at the “earliest possible time.” The board has the authority to take action or issue a statement in response to the petition.
“We do appreciate constructive input and I will advise our board of you letter and concern,” he replied to at least one of many emails he received in the past few days.
In previous years, Englet said he has asked vendors to remove obscene merchandise. Contracts with the vendors allow him the right to ask them to remove anything.
“I do watch for any items that I deem inappropriate. Our approach to many controversial issues is to be diligent and focus on our mission and guiding principles,” he said.
Parillo’s petition points out that vendors at other area fairs will not be displaying or selling the Confederate flag or related merchandise. She asks the local fair board to join these others in taking a stand against the symbol.
“Inform the vendors for this year and beyond that they cannot display or sell this type of merchandise. Send a message that all are welcome to the Ashland County Fair. We are a supportive and inclusive community,” Parillo said in the petition.
On June 29, the Wayne County Fair Board announced its decision to prevent vendors from selling the Confederate flag or related memorabilia in a letter posted to it's website.
Also in late June, vendors at the Medina County Fair mutually agreed to no longer sell or display the Confederate flag.
“Why wouldn’t we want to get rid of this. It’s a symbol of hatred,” Parillo said. “My goal is that they will announce they will ban it now and forever more.”