Officials in a small North Carolina town received an earful of complaints from some spectators over an Independence Day parade float festooned with racially-charged language.
Local farmer Donnie Spell drove a green John Deere tractor with the Confederate flag hitched to the back. The makeshift float was pulling a wooden wagon with a red, white and blue sign on the side reading “white history month” and, just below, “HUG WTE PPL” in all capital letters.
Spell, who is a frequent entrant in the July 4th parade as well as the local Christmas parade, was decked out in a white baseball cap and a shirt in the design of the American flag.
The wagon was filled with watermelons.
The community parade occurred on Thursday in downtown Hope Mills, N.C., not too far south of relatively urbane Fayetteville.
Roughly a dozen people called or emailed town officials, reports The Fayetteville Observer. Other locals took to Facebook and other social media to object to what they had seen.
In applying for a parade permit, Spell wrote on his application that his entry in the parade would be an antique tractor pulling a trailer with signage advertising watermelons for sale in a nearby parking lot, notes local ABC affiliate WTVD.
An unidentified neighbor of Spell’s told WTVD that he didn’t think Spell was attempting to be cruel or humorous. The neighbor apparently did not say what he thought Spell was actually trying to be instead.
“It’s very offensive in a lot of ways, actually, to just promote, you know, that it’s only white history month,” said Stacey Blackwell in one of the ABC affiliate’s obligatory person-on-the-street interview.
“It makes me sad,” added another local, Jeff Long.
Kenny Bullock, director of the Hope Mills parks and recreation department, told the Observer that he had asked one of Spell’s family members to remove the sign before the parade started. He discovered that his request not been honored when people began calling him to complain right in the middle of the day’s pageantry.
Town officials told WTVD that they will review parade-entry regulations in the coming weeks.
“I believe we’ve got to make sure we’re sensitive to all people’s feelings,” said Mayor Jackie Warner on Friday, according to the Observer.
“Our town has become more diverse,” she added.
Warner was also in the parade.