One of the floats in the Christmas parade that rolled through Springdale, Arkansas, over the weekend was clearly not a sleigh carrying St. Nick.
Christmas lights bedecked the trailer, pulled by a pickup truck. A Confederate flag flew on the front, and two men dressed as Confederate soldiers rode on the back. One held a rifle in his hand.
A video of the parade posted by a Facebook user named Thunder Man caught the shocked response of the person filming: “Why are there Confederate soldiers out here?”
As the float rolled down the street, kids in the crowd can be heard on the video yelling for candy.
“I got bullets. Want bullets?” the man with the gun asked them.
A tiny voice in the crowd yelled out, “Why do you have a rifle with a bayonet on it?”
“I’m looking for Yankees!” the man said.
Toward the end of the video, the man yelled at the soldiers.
‘Y’all fightin’ for slavery?”
“No!” one of them yelled back.
Alice Gachuzo-Colin turned her back to the float when she saw it.
“It was supposed to be a Christmas parade,” she told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. “Everything that goes along with Christmas was supposed to be celebrated. It was completely the wrong place and the wrong time to celebrate your ‘heritage.’”
The float belonged to the Arkansas Sons of Confederate Veterans, according to KNWA in Rogers, Arkansas. The group’s president, Trip Wilson, described it as a patriotic organization.
“In Arkansas, we take particular interest in the preservation and marking of Confederate soldiers’ graves, support of historical re-enactment efforts, education of our young people and attendance at regular meetings to discuss the military and political history of the period,” the group’s web page says.
“The SCV rejects any person or group whose actions tarnish or bring dishonor upon the Confederate soldier or his reason for fighting. This particularly applies to those groups and persons using our cherished flag as symbols for their own dishonorable purposes.”
“There was nothing going on that was illegal, or illicit or wrong,” Wilson told the TV station about the float. “Some people have a misconception of what Confederate states were and what the war was about and people who have those misconceptions have preconceived ideas of what their feelings are.”
Wilson told KNWA he “looked at the Facebook video and I don’t see anything wrong with it. In fact, I encourage them to do more community events.”
The video posted to Thunder Man’s Facebook page has been viewed more than 10,000 times. One commenter noted that the Confederate float has been in the Christmas parade since she was “in diapers.”
The comments about the video show that some people were confused — “Was it a history parade ? (I’m) not sure I get the connection to a Christmas parade” — angered and defensive of a group they said does good deeds for the community.
“They were not racist and would be insulted if they were reading this,” wrote commenter Jeannie Burks. “These are folks who had family ancestors who served, and love history, I actually have ancestors who served on both sides. These are men who love history and want to preserve it not wipe it out ... Before you spout off you should do your homework.”
The Downtown Springdale Alliance told KNWA that though it didn’t organize the parade, it did not condone the float.
“The November 24th Christmas Parade of the Ozarks float featuring the Confederate flag and soldiers was not approved by DSA, nor is its message condoned by our staff or board of directors,” the group said in a statement to the TV station.
The parade’s sponsor, Rodeo of the Ozarks, told the Democrat-Gazette that participants can register ahead if they want their floats judged, or just show up on the day of the parade. Participants have never been vetted, Sach Oliver, a member of the rodeo’s board of directors, told the newspaper.
He said board members had not discussed how to handle what happened on Saturday.
“We want to provide happy, positive experiences to help families enjoy the season,” Oliver told the newspaper. “That anything happened in the parade that was negative, or hurt anybody’s feelings, we are sorry.”
Gachuzo-Colin told KNWA that she had been enjoying the parade, up to that point.
“I know it’s pride and heritage for people and I don’t want to take that away from them,” she told the TV station. “But there is a time and a place for everything and this wasn’t one of those times.”