The Times-Union
Wed., March 23, 2005

Swampfest 2005’s ban on gun and Confederate memorabilia displays has drawn the wrath of Southern heritage advocates.

The organizers of Swampfest "respectfully requested" that no weapons or Confederate memorabilia be on display at the April 1-2 festival in downtown Waycross, volunteer organizer Regina Morgan said.

"It’s just a group that wanted to provide a good wholesome event for Waycross,” and one that would protect children’s safety and sensibilities, she said of the all-volunteer organization.

Swampfest isn’t the only show in town. Two other festivals are happening at the same time:

The 27th annual April Fools Rod Run is at the Waycross Exchange Club Fairgrounds on Saturday, April 2.

Pogofest, an annual gathering of the Pogo fan club, will also be in Waycross and at the Okefenokee Swamp Park April 1-2.

Morgan said the concern over Swampfest centers on T-shirts and other items with themes that have less to do with Southern heritage than with ridiculing other cultures and races.

"The tone they’re having is more hateful than heritage-related,” she said.

Swampfest will have arts, crafts and food venders, a frog-jumping championship, a bed race along Tebeau Street, a hot dog-eating contest and a street dance with music by the Swingin’ Medallions, Morgan said. The Waycross Service League is providing an entertainment venue for the young called Kids Zone, she said.

"I’m a person who has lived in this community 36 years," Morgan said. "I’m ready for something to happen in this community my kids can enjoy."

But Carl Sears, who lives near the Dixie Union community, said he does not feel welcome and will spend his money elsewhere that weekend.

Sears is an advocate of the former state flag with the Confederate battle emblem, replaced during former Gov. Roy Barnes’ administration.

The ban on Confederate memorabilia unfairly singles out and discriminates against a certain group of people, he said.

"What if they put on there no African-American memorabilia will be displayed or sold?” he asked. "It’s become a point of principle.”

On The Web: