I have spent the better part of the past two weeks on the proverbial emotional roller coaster.
I am proud to say that I am one of those 10,000 who enjoys the festivity and excitement of the Williston Crabfest.
I help to plan activities, invite family and friends and spend hours eating, laughing, sharing and catching up with people that I have not seen in a while.
Like so many others in attendance on Saturday, April 27, my enjoyable local holiday was shattered by a senseless violent act when shots were fired and a man lost his life.
Calm briefly turned to chaos and celebration into mourning. The roller coaster was about to drop steeply off into fear, confusion and sadness.
In the days following I found that recovering from the pain of having our much-loved festival disturbed by Saturday’s events would, perhaps be easier than recovering from the piercing hatred, ignorance and racism that I would endure from my community as they responded, not with words of comfort or understanding but with belittling, un-informed chants that simply sound to me like “that’s what you deserve” or “so what!”
I have been amazed that people with whom I attended school or shared employment or volunteered and people who have held office, or taught my children or waited on me at the grocery store are now revealing to me what they felt about me all along.
After spending more time than I probably should have on the Williston Pioneer’s Facebook page reading comments I have had enough. I am so disappointed that they do not realize that this was an attack on our safe and peaceful hometown and that every resident of Williston should be equally incensed. I am saddened that they actually believe that this festival is a more likely (and maybe even more deserving) site for a violent act than any other gathering.
I am frustrated that their memory is so short that they can not recall Newtown or Aurora or even so many Florida/Georgia games in Jacksonville.
Are we out of our minds? Do we actually think that violence or drug addiction is race specific? Chances are Tamerlan Tsarnaev and his brother didn’t drive cars with butterfly doors or bass in the trunk. The people of Boston wouldn’t say that they “invited” crime into their city because they enjoyed the liberties that all Americans are entitled to.
Since when are the conservative, libertarian, second-amendment loving folks of our area against people freely gathering on what is mostly their own private property. At what point did the “no-tax” “no-regulation” crowd think it was a good idea to permit a small town festival and double-charge citizens who are already entitled to the protection of the sheriff and the response of emergency personnel.
I am livid that one of the friendliest neighborhoods in the area is labeled as drug-infested and according to some on the Pioneer’s Facebook page, worthy of being bull-dozed.
Racism has reared its ugly head.
Crabfest might have less alcohol than the average pre-game tail-gating party and I shutter to think that my sons and nephews look like drug-dealers to those whose prejudice has so clouded their eyes that they can’t see that they make straight A’s and say “yes ma’am” (even to people who don’t really deserve that respect sometimes.) The people of Williston need to open their eyes and realize that everything and everyone doesn’t have to look like you or sound like you to be accepted.
I attended the Peanut Festival for the first time last year and personally found it a little bland and slow for my taste. But I am proud of the community on that day and I happily support those who enjoy it and want to see it go on.
Maybe Crabfest should change it’s venue to the Heritage Park for people to feel that it deserves a traffic detail and security. My point is simple. The Levy County residents who attend and enjoy Crabfest may not also attend the Arts or Seafood Festivals in Cedar Key, or the Watermelon or Peanut Festivals or even the Independence Day celebration and fireworks, but all of those receive some level of governmental support.
The Black population of the county has one major event and asks support once a year and the penny savers are in an uproar. Let’s not forget the fact that thousands of dollars are spent locally in preparation for the festival and hundreds of thousands of dollars are spent in our area during the festival.
The money that is left here is spent on groceries and utilities and daycare and home repairs and rent, making an immediate impact on the local economy.
A portion of that money is returned to the federal, state and county governments which, in turn, fund the sheriff’s office. How ridiculous is it to ask citizens to pay again for what they have already been assessed. Be careful in calling for permits and more regulation because that will not only affect Crabfest but every other gathering and event in the county.
The Fall Festival at your church, Relay for Life and so many other events would have to comply.
If we scrutinize who is licensed to sell food versus those who are not then your child’s school bake sale or an FFA barbeque would not meet the standard. Not only that, the County does not even have jurisdiction in permitting food vendors.
Pointing fingers is easy. Calling names is juvenile. Trying to regulate or tax something out of existence just because you do not understand it is misguided. Judging an entire event, neighborhood and race based upon the acts of one sad, selfish, twisted person is shameful.
Crabfest is far from perfect. It caters to a broad swathe of people of all ages and sub-cultures including good, clean-living, educated, family-oriented, sober, self-supporting Christian people like me!
There are needs for improvement but that’s family business and the community that hosts the festival will work through those issues.
I would ask the good people of Williston to look deeply at themselves and examine the root cause of their anger and hatred. I would encourage you to reach across racial lines to truly get to know someone who lives across town from you.
Ask the people in the neighborhoods that you so hate and fear if they have bars on their windows or lock their doors during the day.
Every family of every color in this town has someone who is affected by drugs. It is time for healing. The happenings of the past few weeks have ripped the scab off of what we were trying to ignore and exposed the ugly wound that still needs to be dressed. Pray for peace. Demonstrate love and seek to be like Christ as we go forward in the coming days.
Johnnie Jones III, Pastor, Fountain of