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Clean air group upset about fair parade ruling

By Kate York,

Lead screenings

• Free lead screenings will be available for children younger than 6 years old at the Marietta City Health Department on the second floor of 304 Putnam St. from 9 a.m. to noon Thursday, Sept. 20.

• Appointments for the free blood tests may be made by calling 373-0611, extensions 112 or 108.

Members of a local environmental group said they were banned from participating in the Washington County Fair parade Saturday, but fair board members say they were prohibited only from protesting, not from marching.

Neighbors for Clean Air founder Caroline Beidler said she had 27 people signed up to march with the group, wave a banner and distribute candy and literature about its campaign to convince Eramet to cut pollution at its Ohio 7 facility.

She said she received a call Friday night from fair board member Kristi Zimmer letting her know a complaint had been made about the group marching and the board had voted that they could not be in the parade.

“They had originally said it was OK or we wouldn’t have gone through with making T-shirts and printing literature and recruiting walkers,” Beidler said. “It’s very unfortunate, and I think with some communication it could have been avoided.”

Beidler said she let the board know about a month before the parade that the group planned to be in it, although that’s not required.

Zimmer said the group was not banned from marching, only from protesting.

“There are no real rules for the parade as far as participants,” she said. “We don’t have registration or a fee, but we had an individual complain about the group protesting and we didn’t want the negativism. We’re here for the kids.”

About 140 groups did march in Saturday’s parade.

It was the first time the issue has ever come up, said fair board President Steve Tornes.

“We’ve never had an instance like this before,” he said. “We didn’t feel like it was appropriate for them to protest when we’re trying to promote fun.”

Eramet is Tornes’ employer and a fair sponsor, but Tornes said the decision would have been the same if another company or individual would have been involved.

“We didn’t want someone going against Eramet the same way we wouldn’t want one politician out there going against another,” he said.

Beidler said she didn’t feel the Neighbors for Clean Air message was at all negative.

“Wanting clear air? That’s a positive thing,” she said. “We want to work with the company (Eramet). We want to work together.”

Tornes said he was told members of the group did march in the parade, but Beidler said they instead gathered on Ohio Street and distributed information to those lining the sidewalks to watch the parade.

“We got a tremendous amount of support from the people we talked to,” she said. “A lot of the movers and shakers in the area were actually in the parade and wouldn’t have seen us if we’d marched, so I think in the end we were actually able to reach more people this way.”

The literature prepared included information on the group’s meetings, the effects of airborne manganese, some Eramet statistics and the address to send a letter to Eramet plant manager Frank Bjorklund.

A call to Eramet was not returned Tuesday.

Zimmer said due to the controversy this year, the fair board is considering implementing a new system for parade participation next year that could include entry fees and registration.

“We’re looking at that,” she said. “We don’t want to have to do that, but it seems like it’s come down to that.”

Tornes said the fees would likely be $5 or $10.





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