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After Racist Merchandise Sold At Expo Center, Fair Board Chair Seeks Stricter Rules

Kentucky Expo Center

After learning that a KKK robe and Nazi-merchandise were on display or for sale during a gun show at the Expo Center this past weekend, the Kentucky Fair Board chairman Mark Lynn said he’ll propose strengthening the board’s policies.

Kentucky Venues spokesperson Cody Patterson issued a statement Tuesday, saying Lynn will make his proposal at the next board meeting on Nov. 15.

Pictures of the merchandise spread through social media after a Courier Journal reporter posted them online. The items, including a KKK robe and Swastika-branded clothing and ornaments, were being sold at the National Gun Day show. It’s a gun show that brings vendors and customers from across the U.S. to the Kentucky Fair and Exposition Center, according to the show’s website.

Patterson confirmed the racist merchandise was being sold there. But he said the board didn’t know about the items until the show ended Sunday. Patterson said the Expo Center has never encountered vendors displaying KKK and Nazi-themed merchandise there.

“We were just as surprised as everybody else when these photographs started circulating,” he said. “We’ve never had an issue with that type of memorabilia or paraphernalia, however you want to cast it, being sold.”

Patterson said the merchandise would’ve been screened if the event was hosted by Kentucky Venues, but since the event management was leased to the national gun show, the show’s hosts would’ve been responsible for screening merchandise.

“We find the items that represent racist ideology is despicable. It’s unacceptable,” Patterson said.

But Patterson said the board has not talked to the gun show manager about the incident, and National Gun Show Manager Ron Dickson declined to comment for this story.

After a 2015 mass shooting at a black church in Charleston, South Carolina, the fair board banned all Confederate flag merchandise from events.

The National Gun Show took place at the Expo Center days after police say a white man shot and killed two black people at a Louisville-area Kroger. Officials say the shooter tried to enter a predominantly black church before going to Kroger; the shooting is being investigated as a possible hate crime.  

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has called for the death penalty for the shooter and for the man accused of killing 11 people at a Pittsburgh synagogue over the weekend. 

This story has been updated.

Kyeland Jackson is an Associate Producer for WFPL News.