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Delco Board of Supervisors votes to support racism at the Fair

We’re disappointed to report that the Delaware County Board of Supervisors voted to give $265,000 in federal funds to the board that oversees the Delaware County Fair, with no requirement that they stop selling racist merchandise. There were three votes against giving the funding without that requirement, all of them Democrats: Bud Gladstone (Andes), William Layton (Tompkins), and Dennis Valente (Davenport). All of the Republicans and conservative independents, and one Democrat (Wayne Marshfield of Hamden) voted yes.

This vote is discouraging and infuriating, but unfortunately not surprising coming from this board of supervisors. No public comment was allowed before the vote (the Delaware County board of supervisors never allows open public comment during their meetings, unlike most municipal boards throughout New York State).

However, we remain encouraged and grateful for the support and advocacy of so many of you. Local allies including Get Woke!, Catskills Unity, and Anti-Racist Catskills helped spread the word on short notice. We received copies of many letters sent to the board of supervisors and to local newspapers, and we heard reports of in-person conversations and phone calls urging our board of supervisors to do the right thing and use its power to build a more inclusive community. We know that these efforts made a difference in the final vote count.

The Oneonta chapter of the NAACP – an indispensable ally in this fight since the beginning – once again stepped up to support us, sending a statement of solidarity on our behalf to the board of supervisors the night before the vote. We thank President Lee Fisher and all the other NAACP volunteers who have stood with us.

The editorial board of the Daily Star also published an op-ed supporting our position the morning of Wednesday’s vote. They wrote, in part:

“An activist group thinks Delaware County should not give $265,000 of its American Rescue Plan Act money to the Delaware County Fair as long as the fair board allows Confederate flag merchandise to be sold during the annual event. We agree....

Hamden Town Supervisor and ARPA Committee Chair Wayne Marshfield said he will talk about the flag issue briefly before the vote, but thought the issue should be addressed between the fair board and the community group.

Wrong, Mr. Marshfield. Your committee and your board are supplying more than a quarter-million dollars of taxpayer money to this private enterprise. Your voice should be the loudest one in this discussion. Meekly handing over the check with no strings attached is not leadership.”

At the meeting, the few supervisors who spoke on the topic emphasized that the fairgrounds are used by many groups throughout the year, not just the county fair, and that the fair itself brings in an estimated $6 million in economic activity to Delaware County. What they failed to acknowledge is that none of those benefits would have disappeared, had they required the fair board to stop hosting white supremacist merchandise. In fact, the county fair could bring in even more revenue if they stopped actively pushing away so many of our community members and visitors. We know that many of you have stopped attending the fair because of their intransigence on this issue. One Black resident of Delaware County stated that he would like to invite family and friends from downstate to the county fair, but he would never do so when Confederate flags are present because it makes him feel “humiliated” to have his loved ones see how his upstate neighbors treat him. We must be better than this!

Civil rights leader Bayard Rustin said, “When an individual is protesting society's refusal to acknowledge his dignity as a human being, his very act of protest confers dignity on him.” We continue to believe in and will continue to fight for a society in which Black lives matter. We urge you to join us in any or all of these efforts:

  • Support fairs that have adopted anti-racist policies banning Confederate flags. You can find a list of fairs in New York State and their positions on hate merchandise at our website: Chenango county is the newest fair that has chosen inclusivity!

  • Contact New York State Commissioner of Ag and Markets Richard Ball. In late 2020, New York State passed a law that, among other things, empowers the state agricultural commissioner to “take any measures necessary to prohibit the sale, on the grounds of the state fair and any other fairs that receive government funding, of symbols of hate.” Ball was one of our earliest allies, so his heart is in the right place. We need to urge him to take further measures to combat hate, such as withholding all state funds from fairs that profit off racism.

  • Contact NYS Senator Alessandra Biaggi, the sponsor of the new law, and ask for her help in advocating, to Commissioner Ball and to county fairs, that the law actually be applied and enforced.

  • Contact Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, another ally, and ask for her help in ensuring that federal funds do not go to private organizations that promote racism.

  • If you have the means to do so, we welcome donations. We are all volunteers and receive no benefit from this advocacy; donations go to pay our website hosting fees, mailings, and occasional newspaper advertisements.

Thank you again for all of your efforts to build a more just, inclusive community and fair for all.

In solidarity,

Christina Hunt Wood, Leslie Kauffman, Laura McClure, Tracey West Hancock, Carla Nordstrom, Krisy Gashler, and Mina Takahashi, on behalf of Fair for All

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