- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 4, 2005

Officials in Hanover County, Va., will no longer co-sponsor the annual Dixie Days celebration because they say the word “Dixie” is “offensive” — but will allow the Civil War festival to be held if organizers pay an $1,800 fee.

The county had asked organizers to rename the event “Civil War Days” or something they think would be less reminiscent of the slavery era, sparking heated e-mail exchanges between residents and county officials.

“I do have a problem with Hanover being a co-sponsor, as it opens us up to having to do so with other groups such as the Nazi, skinheads [and] gays and lesbians,” county Supervisor Jack Ward said in one e-mail.

County officials last week called a truce, saying they would allow the three-day festival to keep its name and be held at Pole Green Park in May. But the county’s sponsorship pullout means Dixie Days organizers become responsible for the traffic, security and trash-removal services the county provided last year as a co-sponsor.

The county Parks and Recreation Department estimated those services, including portable-toilet rentals and paying for a county sheriff’s deputy to work security during the event, will cost organizers $1,867.90.

“This will enable the Cold Harbor Guards to proceed as they wish with an independently run event,” said Tim Stanley, chairman of the Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee.

Grayson Jennings is commander of the Cold Harbor Guards Camp, a division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans of Virginia (SCV), which is organizing the event. He said his group is considering the offer, but is angry about the fee.

“They just want us to go away,” he said. “They are worried about their image. They aren’t worried about anyone’s rights.”

Other SCV members said in e-mails they believe the fee is an “arbitrary penalty” for their refusal to drop “Dixie” from the festival’s name.

Mr. Jennings and others had considered pulling the 11,500-attendance event out of the county and were threatening a lawsuit over the proposed name change.

They said the event aims to educate children about the state’s history and noted it raises $1,000 for a high school scholarship.

The Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee, which oversees the permit process for all county-sponsored events, had recommended the group change the festival name to “Civil War Days” or “Blue and Gray Days,” though those terms, too, recall the era of slavery.

Committee members said they worried that new residents and blacks might find “Dixie Days” offensive and a symbol of slavery and racism.

Pulling out of the co-sponsorship releases the Cold Harbor Guards from scrutiny by the 18-member committee.

During the heated exchange, Richmond-area resident Jerry Wells said he was “offended by the blatant destruction of my Southern heritage and history, especially the War Between the States and the removal of the word ‘Dixie’ from your event.” He signed his note “Confederately.”

Other correspondents noted that Virginia Gov. Mark Warner last month attended the Southern Governors’ Association conference, which featured a ball for the chief executives called “Dancin’ in Dixie.”

Richard G. Williams Jr. of Lexington, a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, scolded the e-mailers for their strong words.

“Anyone resorting to ungentlemanly conduct is not doing service to our cause, and I would prefer that they keep those types of comments to themselves,” he wrote. “General Lee and General Jackson would not approve.”

The word “Dixie” likely originates from the $10 bank notes issued before the war by banks in New Orleans, when French was widely spoken. The notes were called “dixies” for the French word for “10.”

Daniel D. Emmett, an Ohio minstrel, later wrote the song “Dixie’s Land,” played at the inauguration of Confederate President Jefferson Davis.

President Lincoln asked his band to play the tune, which had become an anthem of the South, at the White House.

He said it was one of his favorites.

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