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Confederate flag not welcome in North San Juan’s Cherry Fest parade

A controversial float featuring the Confederate flag is seen during last year's parade at the 122nd annual North San Juan Cherry Festival.
Elias Funez/efunez@theunion.com

KNow & Go

WHAT: 123rd annual North San Juan Cherry Festival

WHERE: North San Juan Community Center, 29190 Highway 49, North San Juan

WHEN: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday

INFO: Pre-register for entering a float or joining the parade at 530-292-9525

Cherry Festival parade organizers have agreed to ban a float with a Confederate flag — or any other float that promotes racism, hate, intolerance or bigotry — from participating in Saturday’s event in North San Juan.

And a Ride for Tolerance and Inclusion has been organized by Ridge resident Schuyler Bright, who is encouraging participants to show up with banners, signs and educational materials.

A wide-ranging and passionate discussion erupted on social media in the week prior to the festival and parade. Many voiced outrage over a float displaying the Confederate flag that had unofficially joined the parade for many years. Others, however, argued for free speech rights.

Initially, the board of the North San Juan Community Center issued a statement that said it did not condone the flag but did not feel the board could ban it due to potential legal issues,

On Thursday, however, the board changed its stance. All floats were required to register to be in the parade and no floats will be permitted that display any form of racism, hate, intolerance or bigotry. Any floats that enter the parade unregistered will be reported to local law enforcement.

“As an organization that strives to serve the public in the best way possible and be inclusive of all peoples, it is important to us that we create an environment that everyone can feel safe in and free from persecution with hateful/hurtful symbols, words, flags, etc and we want to do our best to hold that standard for ourselves and the community,” wrote board president Avani Leitz.

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Bright said her ride for inclusivity was inspired by the “heated” Facebook discussion.

“Lots of opinions flew, but no one stepped up to do anything, so I thought the best solution short of law enforcement involvement was to balance out the exclusion with a show of people who support inclusion and tolerance,” she said. “Even though I’m six months pregnant and will be bringing my two-and-a-half year old (child), I decided to start inviting people to ride/walk/march with me. … I do believe paving the way for people of color to feel safe is our job as white people, and feel saddened there is so much exclusion in this area.”

Bright said she was encouraged by the decision of the North San Juan Center board to oppose the flag.

“I hope that more people will come support the center in their stance and our community as an inclusive one,” she said.

Contact reporter Liz Kellar at 530-477-4236 or by email at lizk@theunion.com.

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