Concerns over Confederate flags at Hanover Tomato Festival

Photo from Grayson Jennings, Virginia Flaggers.

HANOVER COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — The controversy surrounding the Confederate battle flag is causing concern at one of the areas biggest festivals. The Hanover Tomato festival draws 35,000 people and hundreds of vendors.

“I’ve been doing it 15 years without any fanfare,” said Grayson Jennings with the Virginia Flaggers.

But this year, the Virginia Flaggers may encounter more pushback than in the past. They will join the Sons of Confederate Veterans” at Saturday’s Hanover Tomato Festival at  Pole Green Park.

“We give away a lot of flags,” said Jennings.

The symbol has received increased attention in the commonwealth and across the country.

“As far as county-sponsored events, it shouldn’t be flown,” said Robert Barnette, with the Hanover County Branch NAACP.

Barnette says it offends too many — and since the festival is put on by the county, it should not be allowed on the grounds at all.

“Divides some people, some people see it as racism and slavery,” said Barnette.

Residents say in the past, you can see many Confederate flags around the festival. Vendors hand out mini flags to visitors, including kids.

“To me, what it stands for is a lot of hate, a lot of turmoil, a lot of negativity. They talk about history…but it’s whose history? There are ancestors that are on the other side of that history,” said Hanover resident Elijah Morgano.

County officials say those vendors paid for their booths, and have the right to give out and display whatever they want, as long as it follows festival guidelines.

Still, many are hoping recent pushes to remove the flag altogether, will encourage county leaders to reconsider.

“I’m hoping that might change in the future,” said Barnette.

“I’d rather not see the flag,” said Morgano.

“We’re not going anywhere, the Sons of Confederate Veterans have been here since 1896. We’ve got a mission to do, and we’re doing it,” said Jennings.

Officials from Hanover Parks and Rec, which is putting on the event, told 8News if enough concerned people contact them, they will look into their vendor selection and maybe make some changes for next year’s festival.

The event is this Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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