By CHERIL VERNON
The John H. Reagan Camp No. 2156 Sons of Confederate Veterans organization is moving forward with its plans to have an informational booth on the future site of its Confederate Veterans Memorial Plaza on Saturday, March 16 after its request to rent a booth at the Dogwood Trails Celebration was denied by the Palestine Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors.
The chamber board of directors informed the group of its decision on Monday.
“The Palestine Area Chamber of Commerce is FOR building a stronger community. Our volunteers spend countless hours doing so,” a chamber board of directors statement said. “It is not in the community’s best interest to allow politically divisive groups to participate in the Dogwood Trails parade or to be a vendor at the festival we are charged with the responsibility to operate on behalf of the City of Palestine.”
John H. Reagan Camp No. 2156 Sons of Confederate Veterans Adjutant/Treasurer Doug Smith said the group was surprised to receive the denial notice from the chamber.
“We applied to have a booth downtown for informational purposes to let people know that our new Confederate Veterans Memorial Plaza would be opening on April 13,” Smith said. “We have a big Saturday event planned that day with a parade and dedication service. We have reenactors coming in, ladies in period costumes and calvary units coming in on horseback. That’s what we were going to promote.”
Smith said the organization has had booths at previous festivals and has participated in parades over the years.
“We’ve always just taken part in the festivities like everybody else until we were notified we would not be allowed to have a booth,” Smith said. “The term ‘politically divisive’ surprised us because we have always tried to be very positive about promoting Palestine heritage and history.”
But the group plans to move forward despite the chamber’s decision.
“We got together and decided to have our own booth on the plaza property, a few blocks away from all the big stuff that will be going on downtown,” Smith said.
The future Confederate Veterans Memorial Plaza will be located between Oak and Main streets and face Jackson Street.
“This may turn out better for us than having a booth downtown because we actually will have it at the site of our new plaza and be able to give people a guided tour though it won’t be totally completed by that time,” Smith said. “We hope to have a display of Confederate relics and one of our cannons — neat things for people to look at.”
The Sons of Confederate Veterans organization is about honoring its ancestors and Confederate veterans, Smith added.
“Anybody is welcome to come down here and join us. We are inclusive not divisive,” he said.