Bloomsburg Fair officials hold press briefing after controversial Facebook post

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BLOOMSBURG, COLUMBIA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) — Officials at the Bloomsburg Fair held a news conference at the fairgrounds on Tuesday to address a controversial post that was made on Facebook over the weekend.

The post, which has since been deleted, shows a man in a dress in a dunk tank with the post reading, “Dr. Levine? Thank you. You were a hit and raised a lot of money for the local fire companies. Wonder why so many were trying to dunk you. Thanks everyone that came out to support our local fire companies.”

“There was a dunk tank, a fellow dressed up in a dress to get people to throw balls at the tank to raise money then it went for this,” Randy Karschner, Bloomsburg Fair President said. “It turned into where people were thinking we were offending Dr. Rachel Levine. That was not the intention at all. Especially the cross gender there was absolutely none of that at all. We apologize.”

Click on the video below to watch the full news conference.

The image has raised questions from many people including those in the transgender community. Beth Hartman, who is active in the LGBTQ community says she isn’t buying the explanation from Bloomsburg Fair officials.

“It sounds like they’re not sorry for what happened. They are sorry they got caught because of social media,” Hartman told Eyewitness News.

Fair officials say they spoke about the matter with a representative of Dr. Levine Tuesday.

“According to the person we talked to at Dr. Levine’s office they were satisfied with that again, we apologized as a group, we apologized to them as a group, it’s understood,” Dave Wawroski, Superintendent of Grandstands at the Bloomsburg Fair said.

Dr. Rachel Levine did not respond to the controversy directly. She would only say she was staying focused on navigating Pennsylvania through the COVID-19 pandemic.

“My only reaction is that I’m going to stay, no matter what happens, laser focused, on protecting the health of the people of Pennsylvania,” Levine said. “Our vision of the Pennsylvania Department of Health is a healthy Pennsylvania for all. And I’m going to do absolutely everything I can to achieve that, whether people agree with me or if they don’t agree with me. Their health is still important to me.”

Bloomsburg University also released a statement condemning the post.

The Bloomsburg Fair hosted the Columbia-Montour County Firemen’s relief carnival to help companies raise money. The COVID-19 pandemic has had a major impact on fire companies fund raising efforts.

The Bloomsburg Fair Board of Directors have also issued a statement regarding the Facebook post. In it, they directly apologize to Dr. Levine.

The statement reads:

“The Bloomsburg Fair has welcomed visitors for 165 years. What started as a street carnival has grown to be one of the largest fairs on the east coast. We enjoy welcoming all visitors to our events. Our goal is to educate, entertain, and inspire those who visit our fairgrounds. We aspire to be a beacon for anyone wanting to participate in any event hosted by the Bloomsburg Fair.

This past weekend, the fair hosted a firemen’s relief carnival, a time set aside to help our valuable area volunteers and fire companies so economically devastated by the cancellation of their annual carnivals. During this event, a fire company official, not connected to the fair, wore a dress for his turn in the dunk tank, set up for fundraising purposes.

Unfortunately this soon transformed into a disrespectful parody of Dr. Rachel Levine, PA Secretary of Health. Dr. Levine also has an impressive resume including professor of pediatrics and psychiatry at the Penn State College of Medicine and was the former PA Physician General. Regrettably, this parody was temporarily posted to the Bloomsburg Fair Facebook page.

On behalf of the Bloomsburg Fair Association Board of Directors, our sincerest apologies go out to Dr. Levine, our shareholders, our sponsors, and all others for this serious lapse in judgement. The fair prides itself on celebrating the diversity and inclusion of all who visit the fairgrounds.

The fair board, staff, volunteers, and partners will make it a priority to see that actions such as these never happen again. Through education and training, our organization will strive to be a leader in bringing together all and discrimination of any type will not be tolerated.

Again, our sincerest apologies to Dr. Levine, our sponsors, our shareholders and all those affected by the insensitive display and subsequent social media post on Monday. I can assure you the Bloomsburg Fair will move forward in a direction that will make our region proud to have the Fair in its midst.”

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