When the Bonner County Fair Board decided this year’s fair theme would be “Fiesta at the Fair,” incorporating the Spanish word for “celebration,” they thought it was harmless enough.
“We set up a theme to make it fun to decorate,” according to Fair Board Chairman Tim Cary, of Priest River.
But members of the Bonner County Republican Central Committee took a different view, opting to use the Espanol—and the occasion of the fair itself—to make political points about English as the nation’s primary language and express support for Arizona’s recent, controversial, anti-illegal immigration law.
According to a June 29 letter sent to Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer from the BCRCC:
At the June meeting of the Bonner County Republican Central Committee of Bonner County, Idaho, the membership voted to affirm your new law on illegal immigration and to make a statement at the Bonner County Fair by displaying evidence of our support. "The theme of this year’s fair is the Spanish word for 'celebration:' 'fiesta'. The Republicans at BCRCC want to make it very clear that English is our primary language, and call our booths “Celebrate!” and display some Arizona license plates if you have some to spare. Please let us know where we might obtain a couple. Our fair happens the last week of August. Thank you."
The story, first reported by the Sandpoint Reader and picked up by Spokesman-Review blogger Dave Oliveria and reporter Betsy Russell, has generated some statewide buzz about the BCRCC’s intended message.
Cornel Rasor, who signed the letter and serves as BCRCC chairman and a member of the Bonner County Commission, said there’s been some confusion over the content of the message to Gov. Brewer.
He said the group’s intent is pretty straightforward: “Support for Arizona.” The English primacy component of the BCRCC’s statement is totally separate, he added.
“My take is that there were some people unhappy with the fiesta theme, probably based on the language issue,” Rasor said. “At the same time, there was some discussion related to Arizona’s anti-illegal immigration law, which was a continuation of discussion at the state [Republican Party] convention, where there were resolutions raised to support the legislation and even encourage our legislators to support similar types of legislation
Cary, who has served on the Fair Board for more than 20 years, was a little surprised to hear that the BCRCC would be using the “fiesta” theme to make any sort of political statement.
“We try to keep politics out. Election year it’s tough to do,” he said. “I just didn’t expect anything like this. If the committee doesn’t have anything better to do with its time or money, then we must have a lot of money in this damn place …
“I guess if this is the case, we’re going to have to take the food booth that serves Mexican food and change all the names for burritos and tacos into whatever they are in English,” he added.
Laura Bry, chairwoman of the Bonner County Democrats, said her group will also be at the fair, “with our Democratic donkey pinatas.”