In what has become the highlight event of the region’s oldest festival, this year’s Grand Land Parade in the 123rd Astoria Regatta may be remembered more for what shouldn’t have been in it rather than what was. It’s unfortunate, because the festival otherwise showcased the spirit and volunteerism of the coast at its best and the organizers and volunteers deserve credit for their dedicated efforts.
While the high-profile parade featured its normal dignitaries, bands, clowns and floats, and the accompanying smiles from the vast majority of the attendees, a float built by the Sons of Beaches, an off-road enthusiast group that participates in community charity events and parades, contained upsetting bumper-sticker sized decals with Confederate logos and was followed by a truck with a Confederate flag. It sparked outrage by some who saw it and further disapproval online.
The all-volunteer, nonprofit Astoria Regatta Association issued an apology Monday, saying it was an unfortunate incident and that the association regrets “the impression caused that Regatta in any way supports or condones the display of the Confederate flag. … Please do not let our oversight reflect negatively on Astoria, or the many, many volunteers who give thousands of hours to create a positive community event each year.”
The float’s main visual was a large replica of U.S. Marines heroically hoisting the American flag on Iwo Jima in World War II and the bumper stickers were affixed to the trailer carrying it and were easy to miss.
The Sons of Beaches group’s leader, Jay Pitman, said the float included several other battle flags from throughout U.S. history meant to honor war veterans, and that the trailer with Confederate decals had been used in prior parades. “We don’t fly our flags with disrespect,” he said. “We fly it with respect to all our veterans. We do not allow any personal political issues or personal agendas. We are non-biased, non racist. We are about Americanism and supporting local law enforcement and first responders.” He said the group is considering removing the flag from future parade events.
It should do just that.
The flag, first flown by the Confederate army during war against the United States, mocks what our country stands for. It is a sad part of our nation’s history, as are Ku Klux Klan hoods, the Dawes Act and signs declaring “Whites Only.” None of which should be celebrated, and a family-friendly festival is certainly not the place for displaying a divisive symbol from the Civil War.