This story has been updated.
Outlaw country and Southern rock group Confederate Railroad has finally addressed the situation of being removed from playing at the Du Quoin State Fair in Illinois this August due to the band’s name. Originally scheduled to perform with Restless Heart and Shenandoah under the banner “90s Country Reloaded Day” on August 27th, it was announced over the 4th of July holiday that the act had been removed from the bill.
“The Illinois Department of Agriculture has removed Confederate Railroad from our 2019 Du Quoin State Fair Grandstand lineup,” Du Quoin State Fair Manager Josh Gross confirmed to the Pinckneyville Press in a prepared statement. “While every artist has a right to expression, we believe this decision is in the best interest of serving all the people in our state.”
On Tuesday (7-9), Confederate Railroad’s frontman and singer Danny Shirley released a statement thanking fans for support, but urging them to not pressure Restless Heart and Shenandoah from performing at the State Fair as well.
As many of you know, we were scheduled to perform at the Illinois State Fair in Du Quoin, Illinois on August 27, along with our friends Restless Heart and Shenandoah. We have since been removed from that show by the Illinois Department of Agriculture because of the name of our band. This was very disappointing as we have played this fair before and enjoyed it very much. The outpouring of support from Confederate Railroad fans, fans of other acts, and the public in general, has been both overwhelming and very much appreciated. I would also like to thank the actors, athletes and fellow country music artists who have spoken out in support. It has been brought to my attention that several people have asked both Restless Heart and Shenandoah to cancel their shows in protest of our cancellation. I have spoken to both acts and encouraged them to perform as scheduled. Live concerts are how we pay our bills and feed our families. I would never want to see another act lose a payday because of this. Please go out to hear these two great bands. As I have said many times onstage, I am by no means a saint but, I am a man of faith and I have faith that God will see us through this as well as whatever comes next! Thank you for your support.
The removal of Confederate Railroad has stirred a public backlash against the fair, and become a national issue as many are concerned about the overreaching of political correctness. Facebook groups and other support networks have been set up in the aftermath, urging fans to call and email the Du Quoin State Fair, and to boycott the fair over the decision. A Facebook group called #boycottduquoinstatefair has started by Larry Dean Basler has gained traction. Basler tells The Southern Illinoisan, “I never thought it would explode the way it has. I think we’re going to hit them in their pocket books, even with parking alone. And I think fair officials and the Department of Ag should apologize and see if they’ll still come play. Instead of up-north politicians cramming their agendas down our throats, you should be catering to Southern Illinois and what the people here like.”
Du Quoin, Illinois is located in the very southern tip of the state. The primary State Fair for the State of Illinois is held in the Capital of Springfield, which is over two hours north of Du Quoin. In 2019, the Illinois State Fair in Springfield will occur August 8th thru the 18th, while the Du Quoin State Fair is being held August 23rd thru September 2nd. The purpose of the Du Quoin State Fair is to represent the individuals in southern Illinois, many of whom identify more regionally with Missouri and Kentucky, and who are regularly underserved in a state where the power and population centers reside much farther north.
The cancellation of Confederate Railroad was not due to any public outcry, petitions by local residents, protests in any part of the region or state, or social media activity from any community on the local or regional level. Instead, the decision to cancel the Confederate Railroad performance is being attributed to a post on June 17th by a political blogger named Rich Miller writing for Capitol Fax that questioned whether a band with the term “Confederate” in the name should be allowed to play a state-owned venue.
Some fans and local promoters are attempting to organize a makeup show for Confederate Railroad, but are running into roadblocks. Despite being cancelled, Confederate Railroad still might be subject to a radius clause in their State Fair contract prohibiting them from playing in the area for 60 days. The band may have also received partial financial compensation to facilitate the cancellation.
Fans also feel a double standard has been presented due to Snoop Dogg playing the State Fair in Springfield. In 2017, the rapper released an EP called Make America Crip Again that depicted a dead President Trump draped in an American flag.
State Rep. Terri Bryant on Illinois said in a statement, “I am a firm believer in First Amendment Rights. But, if these arbitrary ‘politically correct’ lines are going to be drawn for certain acts, then I would like to know from the administration where this starts and where it stops. If Snoop Dogg is allowed to play at the Springfield State Fair, I would urge that Confederate Railroad be reinstated as an act at the Du Quoin State Fair.”
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UPDATE 7-9-19 11:35 CDT: Shenandoah has also released a statement.
Confederate Railroad has been extremely wronged by having been booked and then cancelled. The event’s organizers knew their name when they were booked, and now this firestorm will likely effect them in a negative way for the remainder of their career, taking their ability to provide for their families away from them. 100% of the comments Shenandoah has received have asked us to cancel our show as well, but we are contractually obligated. Plus, we wouldn’t want to do that to our own fans that want to see us. This ‘political correctness’ has to stop. It’s tearing our country apart. – Shenandoah