VICTORY: Delaware County Fair is Free of Racist Confederate Symbols, After 7-Year Community Effort
Fair For All is thrilled to announce that this year’s Delaware County Fair is finally free of Confederate flag merchandise. Fair for All organizers and supporters have canvassed the fair and found no Confederate flag merchandise for sale this year – a dramatic change from years past. Fair Board President Ed Rossley told a Fair for All supporter that the change was made to comply with a directive from the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets.
“It should never have taken this long, but we are delighted that, at long last, the Delaware County Fair is no longer serving as a platform for the sale of racist hate merchandise,” said Fair for All co-founder Leslie Kauffman.
The move by the Delaware County Fair follows seven years of pressure by local residents opposed to the presence of racist merchandise at one of the oldest agricultural fairs in the state and largest public events in the county. The board was first asked to remove racist merchandise – especially Confederate paraphernalia – shortly after the mass killing of Black churchgoers at the Emanuel AME church in Charleston, S.C. by a white supremacist in 2015.
In response to that horrific and senseless attack, many companies and organizations chose to stop profiting off hate merchandise: Amazon, eBay, Walmart, and the New York State Fair were among those who stopped selling merchandise that celebrates the violent, racist, traitorous Confederacy. However, when Walton resident and 4-H rabbit barn superintendent Leslie Kauffman requested that the Delaware County Fair follow the example of the state fair and forbid such merchandise, the fair board flatly refused, with one fair board member saying, “the more [Confederate flags], the better.”
In 2017, Fair for All was founded to organize community members and advocate that the Delaware County Fair board change their position. In the past five years, thousands of residents have signed petitions, joined protests, written letters to the editors, and spoken directly with vendors and fair board members. But even as more and more community members joined our efforts, the Fair Board dug in its heels.
Facing this intransigence, Fair for All took its mission state-wide, gaining support from Attorney General Letitia James, State Agricultural Commissioner Richard Ball, and Cornell University (whose land-grant mission means that it supports 4-H and other agricultural programming prominently featured at county fairs statewide), among others. We were heartened to watch one county fair after another across New York State adopt policies banning Confederate merchandise, while discouraged to see our own fair continue to choose hate merchandise over our own community. The Delaware County Fair Board was, to the best of our knowledge, the final hold-out in the state.
In 2021, the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Delaware County joined our call and urged the fair board to ban hate merchandise, saying, in part: “To be true to our pledge to ensure, to the greatest extent possible, that our time, energy, and financial resources are committed equitably to all people, the Board of Directors of Cornell Cooperative Extension of Delaware County would like to clearly oppose the display and/or sale of symbols of racial hatred at the Delaware County fair, including the Confederate flag.”
We are deeply grateful to the many individuals and organizations who have stood with us through this long and difficult journey. The Oneonta NAACP has been an indispensable ally, along with Get Woke!, Catskills Unity, Anti-Racist Catskills and the Cornell University Student Assembly.
"Black lives matter," said Fair for All organizer Krisy Gashler. "Even at rural county fairs, even in a county that is 95% white, Black lives matter. County fairs should be about livestock shows, carnival rides, free bikes, and fried foods. Racist, violent symbols like the Confederate and Nazi flag have no place outside museums and history books -- and certainly not at family-friendly events like county fairs. We are overjoyed that New York State's county fairs are finally welcoming, safe, and fair for all."