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Economy & Business

Kentucky State Fair Vendors Divided Over Ban Of Confederate Flag Merchandise

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

When nine people were murdered two months ago in a South Carolina church, a renewed debate over the Confederate battle flag followed, and it hasn't gone away. In Kentucky, the board of the State Fair voted to ban vendors from selling the Confederate battle emblem beginning next year. Jake Ryan of member station WFPL has the story.

JAKE RYAN, BYLINE: Dreama Butler stands among thousands of people in an Expo Center with a flea market feel at the Kentucky State Fair. She's selling flags and has quite a selection. But there's one she doesn't have despite dozens of requests. Butler sold out of the Confederate battle flag before she came to the fair. And since she's been here, scores of people have asked her if she has any in stock.

DREAMA BUTLER: I have people that say, I would've never flown a Confederate flag, but if I can find one right now, I will fly it.

RYAN: Other vendors have a wide range of items adorned with the Confederate battle flag for sale despite the impending ban and push to keep it out of this year's event.

JIM WATHEN: The three sells better than the other ones 'cause it's the original flag.

RYAN: Jim Wathen is selling the Confederate battle flag at his stand as well as hats, stickers and patches with the emblem. He's been doing this for about a decade at the Kentucky State Fair.

WATHEN: We're a military booth. You see this flag? That's the battle flag. It's not anything to do with any racism or anything like that.

RYAN: He says this year, he'll sell the flags until he runs out, but next year, he'll adhere to the ban. It wasn't hard to find the symbol among fairgoers. Outside at a corndog stand, Marty Stanifer wears a black T-shirt with a big Confederate flag on the back. He thinks the ban is discriminatory.

MARTY STANIFER: Just a Southerner man - it ain't got nothing to do with no racists or nothing like that. It's just - it's your heritage.

RYAN: For others, next year's full ban on the merchandise can't come soon enough. Pope Mobley and a group of friends are checking out a T-shirt stand that had Confederate flag designs for sale. He says he's a bit surprised to see them.

POPE MOBLEY: With all the controversy around it in South Carolina, it seems to be a little - bad taste, maybe? We are in Kentucky, though.

RYAN: Fair officials says there's not much they can do this year. But next year, if a vendor sells a flag, they'll be asked to leave. For NPR News, I'm Jake Ryan in Louisville. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.