Bikes, Blues & BBQ: Concerns Raised over Messages Written on T-shirts

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FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA) — It’s the third day of the 19th Annual Bikes, Blues and BBQ Motorcycle Rally. The event brings in vendors and motorcyclists from near and far and prides itself on being a family-friendly event.

Rally organizers say it’s always a priority to bring in family-friendly activities associated with the event.

“One thing that Fayetteville always prides itself on is a diversity of town,” Bikes, Blues & BBQ Executive Director Tommy Sisemore said.

As you walk down Dickson Street and stop by several vendors, there’s a variety of items being sold.

“Last year I know that one vendor was selling some Nazi propaganda. We immediately removed it and we didn’t allow that vendor back this year. We want to be good stewards to the community,” Sisemore said.

Messages on certain apparel concern people like Steve Holst, the President of the Board at the OMNI Center for Peace, Justice and Ecology in Fayetteville.

“A person can wear any kind of t-shirt they want, but the vendors they have control over that. They shouldn’t be selling stuff like that if they are family-friendly. That’s not family-friendly,” Holst said.

But Sisemore says he does not have control of what certain vendors sell.

“We control the vendors on the Walton arts center or on the house Mansfield lot,” Sisemore said. “Other than that, all the other vendors are controlled by the individual property owner.”

A statement on the Bikes Blues and BBQ site reads,”We pride ourselves in being a family friendly event, inclusive of all members of the community and in no way condone or accept racism, white supremacy, bigotry, fascism, intolerance or hate speech.”

Sisemore stands by this statement and says he hires an off duty law enforcement officer to go around every morning and check on his vendors, making sure they aren’t displaying lewd or offensive material.

“We spend large amounts of money on security and just making sure that we attract the right kind of riders,” Sisemore said.

Holst says he just hopes more vendors will be aware of the messages they send out.

“We just need to be mindful of what our symbols mean to other people.”

Sisemore adds there is an interview process for his vendors, and that’s when they discuss what they would like to sell and the expectations at the rally.

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