A group has been handing out Confederate flag stickers at the N.C. State Fair this week, drawing complaints from some fairgoers.
The N.C. Sons of Confederate Veterans, which has a booth in the commercial and education building at the fair in Raleigh, has been handing out stickers containing an image of the familiar Confederate battle flag, said Brian Long, spokesman for the N.C. Department of Agriculture.
Long said the department, which runs the fair, has received multiple complaints about the stickers.
“A wide variety of groups and businesses rent booth space at the fair,” Long said. “The organizations represent many diverse interests, and many of them give away stickers or other items.”
The Sons of Confederate Veterans group has rented booth space at the fair “for at least a dozen years,” Long said. Leaders of the NCSCV say they’ve exhibited for more than 30 years at the fair and have always handed out stickers.
“Like all of the other exhibitor booths, we need to be able to hand something out that the visitors can take with them,” said Kevin Stone, the group commander. “We hand out stickers at events across the state.”
Stone said the stickers are popular and that they tend to run out. He recalled complaints about “flags” in 2015, but said that to his knowledge no one has ever complained directly to the group.
“Prior to 2015, we never heard of any complaints, period,” Stone said. “Our experience at the fair has always been pleasant, and each year, we receive a warm reception from the public and recruit many new members.”
Darwin Roseman, who holds the title of quartermaster with the NCSCV, said the group is a historical society that wants to educate people on Southern history and heritage.
“We are professional – we don’t cause any trouble,” Roseman said. “We’re here to educate the public, and so the only way you can educate the public is to be in the public.”
The stickers feature the flag above the text “I Support Confederate Heritage.”
Will Reeves, 60, called the fair to complain about the stickers. He said his family has roots in Raleigh that go back seven generations, and some of his ancestors fought in the Civil War. But the stickers shocked and upset him.
“I thought, especially at a state-sanctioned event, that that wouldn’t be happening,” Reeves said. “I equate it to the Nazis.
“My family was in the Civil War, but it wasn’t right and I’m not proud of it. If my family were Nazis, I wouldn’t wear swastikas or if I were related to Charles Manson, I wouldn’t wear anything representing that. I think it’s a kind of hate and ignorance and intolerance to other people.”
Reeves said he’s seen the stickers handed out during the fair in past years, but he thought they wouldn’t make an appearance this year because of the current political climate. He said he hoped the stickers didn’t make anyone feel unwelcome at the fair.
“I just hate it,” he said. “I felt embarrassed, and it hurt my heart.”
Stone, the group commander, said some people have never been willing to listen to the NCSCV’s message, or “respect our history or ancestors as we respect theirs.”
“Folks who supposedly complained about the stickers likely do not want to hear from us anyway,” Stone said.