Music festival promoter defends decision to feature Dukes of Hazzard car and the Confederate flag painted on its roof _lowres

Advocate file photo by ADAM LAU -- Fans line up to see a "General Lee" 1969 Dodge Charger and cast members of the "Dukes of Hazzard" TV show at Henderson Auctions in Livingston on Saturday, Sept. 29, 2012.

Dozens of Confederate flags will be on display at the annual Livingston Parish Cajun Country Jam on Independence Day, but the most prominent won’t be waving and snapping in the breeze.

The festival is welcoming attendees to show off their replica General Lee cars from the TV series “The Dukes of Hazzard,” which on the show featured a large Confederate battle flag on the roof of the 1969 Dodge Charger.

Jam producer Scott Innes is expecting about 40 visitors to show off their replicas at the show. Several cast members also are scheduled to appear at the event and sign autographs, including John Schneider, who played Bo Duke and currently runs a film company in Livingston Parish.

The display comes at a contentious time for both the flag and the show. Last month, a self-identified white supremacist was charged with killing nine churchgoers at a historically black church in Charleston, South Carolina, sparking a debate across the nation, and particularly in the South, over the display of the battle flag.

Meanwhile, Warner Bros. has since halted production of toy replicas of the General Lee, and TV Land on Wednesday pulled reruns of the show, which ran from 1979 to 1985, from its lineup.

Innes said the Cajun Country Jam will still hold its replica General Lee event and will not bar attendees who arrive with Confederate flags or who wear the design on their clothing.

“There is not controversy about that flag out here,” he said. “Here’s the deal — the flag is not racist; people are.”

Innes said the flag is a cultural symbol, “A Southern thing. ... A ‘yes ma’am, no ma’am’ thing” whose significance has been blown out of proportion by the media looking to stir the pot. Since the Supreme Court ruled on same-sex marriage last week, reporters already have moved on, he argued.

“The rest of the world is talking about gay marriage, so that’s a good thing,” Innes said.

The promoter said he hadn’t heard of any potential trouble surrounding the dozens of battle flags expected to appear at the concert. Quite the opposite; one caller said she would not attend if organizers obscured the flags on the General Lees, Innes said.

Daniel Landry, president of the Livingston chapter of the NAACP, said his organization is focusing its efforts on removing the Confederate flag from public governmental buildings like city halls. Paraphrasing from the popular maxim, he said he may not agree with the symbology of the flag, but he would defend the rights of individuals to display it in their private lives as long as it does not lead to violence such as the South Carolina massacre.

“We have to be tolerant of other people’s beliefs as long as they don’t take it to the extreme,” he said.

However, he did challenge those who fly the flag to look within themselves to determine if it is really a symbol of culture or a relic of a period of oppression, and to weigh their own beliefs against the perception of the flag among their black neighbors.

“It means something to people of color that may be different than Southern pride,” he said. “We see it as something completely different.”

Innes clarified that while the Cajun Country Jam will allow the Confederate flag, the event officials will display only American flags for the Independence Day event.

“This is a patriotic (concert),” he said.

He hopes people will focus more on the music and the celebrity guests, which include, besides much of the “Dukes” cast, Dawn Wells from “Gilligan’s Island,” and Erik Estrada and Larry Wilcox from “CHiPs.” The event also features musical artists Mark Chestnutt, Tracy Lawrence, LeRoux, Chee Weez and others. Tickets are $20 in advance and $25 at the gate.

Attempts to reach Schneider Wednesday were unsuccessful. However, one “Dukes” cast member who is not scheduled to appear at the festival has spoken forcefully on the flag debate since Warner Bros. decided to stop production of General Lee toys.

“That flag on top of the General Lee made a statement that the values of the rural South were the values of courage and family and good times,” wrote Ben Jones, who played Cooter Davenport, on his Facebook page.

“Our beloved symbol is now being attacked in a wave of political correctness. ... Activists and politicians are vilifying southern culture and our heritage as being bigoted and racist. We know that this is not the case.”

The Advocate and 36 other businesses are sponsoring the jam.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. Follow Steve Hardy on Twitter, @SteveRHardy.