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Delaware County Fair Won't Ban Confederate Flag at NY Confab

The Delaware County Fair organizers say it's too late to tell vendors they can't sell flag merchandise.

A county fair in upstate New York rejected a request to ban Confederate flag merchandise at a meeting where several members of the board of directors expressed support for the racially divisive symbol.

"The more of them the better," Norm Kilpatrick said, according to the Watershed Post, a news site that covers the Catskills and had a reporter at the meeting earlier this week.

Kilpatrick did not return repeated requests for comment but the board of the Delaware County Fair said in a statement to NBC News that it "takes no position on the Confederate flag controversy."

In a later statement, the group said that because its vendor contracts for the Aug. 17-22 event were signed months ago, "we simply cannot ban the flags."

"However, this does not mean we condone them either," the board said, adding that it would review the policy for next year's fair.

The murders of black church members in Charleston, South Carolina, last month sparked a furor over the flag, which is seen as a symbol of slavery and discrimination by many.

It was removed from the South Carolina statehouse, and a slew of companies from Walmart to Amazon said they would no longer sell merchandise bearing the symbol.

John Bazemore / AP

After an announcement that the New York State Fair was following suit, Leslie Kauffman, a longtime activist who is also a 4-H leader in Delaware County, asked local fair organizers if they would do the same.

"I perhaps naively thought it would be a pretty easy call," said Kauffman, who divides her time between Brooklyn and Delaware County.

The request was brought up at a board meeting Monday night, according to the Watershed Post.

“The Civil War got over 153 years ago,” John Jackson, one of the directors, reportedly said.

“It's just part of history,” said another, Niles Wilson, according to the article.

Kilpatrick, whose Facebook page includes a message of support for the flag, added, “It's none of our damn business."

The initial statement from the board said the article was "inaccurate." A later statement said the directors' comments "were taken completely out of context." The Watershed Post said it stands by its reporting.

In a brief phone interview with NBC News, the board president, Ed Rossley, said, "It's tough for us to get to vendors now."

Kauffman said she can't accept that excuse.

"I don’t really think it’s a real explanation," she said. "There’s other things that they don't sell at our county fair. You won't see merchandise that is pornographic. You won't see swastikas."

In the South, supporters of the flag have argued it's not a symbol of pro-slavery forces but a memorial to Confederate soldiers who died during the Civil War.

Kauffman said 250 miles north of the Mason-Dixon Line, that argument holds no water.

"A large number of people in Delaware County fought in the Civil War for the North, so if you talk about the history, our heritage is people going to war to fight against slavery," she said.

"I guess I'm naïve because I was really shocked," she said of the board's choice not to ban the flag. "And I'm very upset and I'm very sad."