Lake City, Fla. (WCJB) When Lake City's Olustee festival started more than 40 years ago Florida Gateway College was a sponsor.
Now college trustees say this year will be the last year they write a 500 dollar check to festival coordinators.
The festival is run by an organization called the Blue-Gray Army, volunteers who when they started so many years ago had a specific goal.
Faye Bowling Warren is the Executive Director of the Blue-Gray Army who explained." It started out to improve the commerce in the downtown area to get people to invest more in that area. It's been very successful over the years and is composed of an arts crafts and food festival."
At a recent Florida Gateway board meeting a local journalist asked for FGC to re-think supporting the Blue-Gray army and the Olustee festival because of its ties to a racist South.
Stew Lilker of the Columbia County Observer said at the meeting, " the board should reject this. It just continues the racism in the South that has gone on for centuries and decades and continues to this day.
Faye Bowling Warren says the festival and reenactment isn't a celebration, it's a remembrance and a teaching opportunity.
"We try to point out the fact that this is the darkest period of our history, of American history. We wanted children to know this is an area, that it's their heritage and anyway we can educate them we try to do it."
Tv20's Landon Harrar reported "I spent the better part of an hour walking around downtown Lake City asking passerby's, store owners, pretty much anybody I could find if they believe the Olustee festival and war reenactment are in fact a celebration of a racist past. The answer I got was a resounding no. In fact, not a single person I spoke with said they believe this festival is promoting any type of racist thoughts or actions. They did say it promotes history, heritage, and education."
Florida Gateway College provided video of the board meeting in question but did not provide a statement about the decision. Stew Lilker in his own statement explained why he saw fit to ask FGC to withdraw support. His entire statement is as follows.
"While events like this have ceased across the South because they do not promote goodwill, Lake City/Columbia County continues to use public funds to promote a jaundiced and untrue picture of what actually happened on the Olustee Battlefield. This is not history, it is the way the loser of the war would like history to be. To claim, as Faye Bowling the promoter of the event did on Facebook, that folks should come out and cheer on the Confederates, speaks for itself. This is not an arts and crafts festival as she has proclaimed. The college board voted unanimously not to fund the event going forward. The board’s unanimous decision speaks for itself."
Faye Bowling Warren said they will continue to hold the Olustee festival and reenactment every year and harbor no ill will towards FGC's decision.