The Kentucky Fair Board banned the sale of Ku Klux Klan merchandise and some Nazi merchandise from its property Thursday, weeks after a KKK hood and Nazi ornaments were spotted for sale at the Expo Center.
The board’s new policy bans the sale or giveaway of merchandise such as KKK and reproduced items bearing swastikas, saying the items represent racist ideologies and are offensive to many people.
“We want [people] to be able to feel welcomed. We want them to feel at home, we want them to feel safe,” Kentucky State Fair Board Chairman Mark Lynn said. “We’ve got to do what we can to be sure we’re giving that. To do that, we’ve got to take a stand and say, ‘This is just wrong.’”
But the policy still allows the sale or giveaway of items made during or before World War II. Lynn said they made that exemption so historical items could still be presented, drawing a distinction between someone’s grandfather’s SS patch and a reproduction for profit.
“There are many groups out there that deal in collectibles in the actual historical items,” Lynn said. “I can’t reach back in time and make some of the atrocities that happened go away. That’s a history we need to be sure we never repeat, and one of the ways to do that is to be sure we know it was there.”
A Courier-Journal reporter tweeted pictures of the KKK hood and Nazi ornaments being sold at the Expo Center weeks ago. Kentucky Venues spokesperson Cody Patterson said the board did not know the items were being sold there, adding they find items which represent racist ideology despicable.
This new policy mimics the last Kentucky fair board item ban, which barred Confederate flags from being sold on the fairgrounds. That policy was enacted in 2015 after the NAACP asked the fair board to create a policy, citing the shooting at a historically-black church in Charleston, South Carolina. It made a limited exception for history books or other media that depict the Confederate flag in its historical context.
Lynn said the new policy will apply immediately to all contracts and events hosted on the fairgrounds, and will be enforced by Kentucky State Fair employees who will look at booths before they’re set up.