With less than three weeks until the Jefferson City Jaycees Cole County Fair, the fair's board of directors announced Monday it has abandoned this year's theme following community concerns.
The Jefferson City Jaycees Board of Directors announced it was doing away with this year's original theme, "Making It Great Again," after community members said they were worried the theme was too political and divisive.
"We realized the theme was creating more of a divisive tone than the tone we originally set out to portray, which was, 'We're making the fair great again,'" said Cole County Jaycees Chapter President Shanna Heard. "We received comments from the public that the fair, they felt, had gone downhill over the past few years, so we were trying to portray that image that we were trying to make some changes.
"Instead, the tone came across divisive and political, and that was never our intent."
Heard said this year's fair would not have a theme and would simply be the "68th Annual Jefferson City Jaycees Cole County Fair."
All references to this year's original theme have been removed from the county fair's social media. While shirts were changed to no longer contain the theme, Heard said, there is not enough time to print new tickets and flyers. The board plans to cover up the "Making It Great Again" theme on those items.
Event organizers originally selected the theme to show some of the changes it was making to the fair, which is scheduled to run July 30 through Aug. 4. This includes bringing in a new carnival, adding more activities and changing the way people enter the gates.
While not everyone is going to like the theme removal, Heard said, she hopes the community will recognize the board was trying to encourage fun — not politics — at the fair.
"You're always going to have people who don't like what we do, but we've tried to remedy the situation so that the community doesn't feel so divided on such a hot-button issue," she said. "Hopefully they see we made the changes and tried to correct this and they will come to the fair and have a good time."
Jefferson City business owner Vander Hughes is an active member of the social justice group Keeping Up With The Jeffersons, who contacted the fair committee about removing the theme. With Jefferson City's diverse community, Hughes said, the group was appreciative to the board of directors for removing the theme.
The group and other community members thought the original "Making It Great Again" theme was too similar to President Donald Trump's campaign slogan — "Make America Great Again" — and people would associate the two.
"That's kind of an isolated slogan and we felt like the fair should not be a political platform, and we felt like that slogan was a rallying call for the supporters of Trump," Hughes said. "That was getting way too close, and we were not willing to support that if that's what it was for. By (the fair committee) taking it down, they've proven to us that that's not what they intended to do."