SANDPOINT, Idaho - Some Republicans are unhappy with the Bonner County Fair's theme of "Fiesta at the Fair," in light of ongoing battles to stop illegal immigration from Mexico.
The Bonner County GOP said it will decorate its booth with the word "celebrate" instead of "fiesta." The Republicans have also asked Arizona officials for some license plates to put in the booth, to show support for that state's controversial law targeting illegal immigrants.
"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," Bonner County Republican Central Committee Chairman Cornel Rasor wrote in a letter to Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, according to The Spokesman-Review newspaper.
The fair runs Aug. 24-28 in Sandpoint, Idaho, a town with relatively few minorities that is about 90 miles north of Spokane, Wash.
Bonner County fair board Chairman Tim Cary said the fair was just looking for a theme that's fun to decorate with, and the choice had nothing to do with official language or immigration disputes.
Cary noted that one of the fair's regular offerings is the Mexican food sold at the Search and Rescue booth.
"Are we supposed to change the name of a burrito to something in English?" Cary said. "I'm thinking there's some narrow-mindedness here, but that's just my opinion."
The county GOP at its monthly meeting in June voted to "affirm" Arizona's tough immigration law and to send the letter seeking the license plates for the fair booth to Arizona's governor.
Rasor, also a county commissioner, sought to distance himself from the clash Wednesday but acknowledged he signed and sent the letter.
"Having a fiesta theme at the fair was OK with me, I didn't even think about it 'til somebody brought it up," Rasor said. "But their concerns are very real to them, so I don't want to downplay it."
Rasor said the words "fiesta" and "celebrate" mean the same thing.
"So technically speaking we didn't have a different theme than the fair, it's just a different spelling," he said.
Last year's fair theme was "A Black Tie and Blue Jeans Affair."
The Arizona law, not yet in effect, is intended to drive illegal immigrants out of Arizona and discourage them from coming in the first place. It requires police investigating another crime to ask people about their immigration status if there's "reasonable suspicion" they're in the country illegally. It also makes being in the country illegally a misdemeanor under state law.
The Idaho Legislature may consider a similar law in its next session.