Letter: Mountain State Fair’s dress code makes no sense

Graphic by Lori Deaton

In 2011, after 17 years of treating all attendees with friendliness, dignity and respect, the N.C. Mountain State Fair installed a large sign at its gate reading, “Shirt and Shoes Required.” The reason for this unwelcoming sign, as I found out later, was as absurd as anyone could possibly imagine.

When I inquired about why such a sign was installed, Matt Buchanan, the fair director, told me it was because they feared the recent “Go Topless Rally” in Asheville would influence women to come to the fair topless. (I still have his answer recorded from my answering machine.) …

To add a shoe requirement, for no good reason, to a shirt requirement that had a ridiculous reason, made no logical sense whatsoever.

In this time of the continued COVID pandemic, a business or public facility requiring a mask to be worn makes perfect logical sense, because such a requirement is based on legitimate scientific and medical reasons: helping prevent the spread of a deadly virus. Yet, inexplicably, the fair does not require anyone to wear a mask.

Requiring shoes to be worn at such places — especially a public facility run by the state — has no logical scientific, medical or even legal basis and can only be based on the arbitrary personal prejudices and/or ignorance of those in control of such facilities.

As a person who lives barefoot for medical and other reasons, the continued current arbitrary and unnecessary dress code sign prevents me from attending the fair, but I had with no problems being barefoot there during the many years prior to the sign being posted.

This is a callous disregard of the rights of individuals to make harmless freewill choices of their lifestyle and/or personal attire.

I wrote an article awhile back about this situation and my ongoing efforts to resolve it, which you can see here: [avl.mx/agh].

— Kriss Sands
Mars Hill

Editor’s note: Previous letters to the editor on the topic, published in 2011, “Topless-protest Paranoia Spreads to Mountain State Fair” and “‘Shoes Required’ Is About Safety, Not ‘Topless Paranoia’” can be found at mountainx.com. In addition, WLOS reported that this year, fair officials requested mask-wearing indoors and social distancing; installed hand-sanitizing stations; and made masks and temperature checks available.


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10 thoughts on “Letter: Mountain State Fair’s dress code makes no sense

  1. Curious

    May I come to Mr. Sands’s tax preparation office barefoot and shirtless?

    • Kriss

      I don’t have a tax preparation office. But if I did, it would make no difference to me how you were dressed.

    • Kriss

      I do. Haven’t attended in 8 years. But it would be nice to go sometime and take my family like I used to.

  2. Hobbit

    Mr. Buchanan’s assertions about “safety” from 2011 were misguided then and as the legacy passed down through the fair management, are are equally misguided today. Dedicated barefooters would face more risk on their routine hikes through the woods and mountains than they would around a fairgrounds, and the responsibility in both of those scenarios and any other rests 100% on the individual. It is not the Fair’s or the county’s problem, and that’s the legal and frankly moral truth ot the matter. It’s insane that the Fair management took it upon themselves to even start this nonsense a decade ago and waste a bunch of peoples’ time over someone’s simple and obviously un-researched personal prejudice.

    Take the stupid signs down already, they have no social benefit whatsoever.

  3. luther blissett

    You know how you go to a place and see a NOT ALLOWED sign which makes no sense — who would do such a thing? — unless there was this one time where a thing happened? Yeah.

    The fair has an insurance policy. Something goes badly wrong with one of the rides? Covered. Someone goes in barefoot — even bear-footed — and ends up with acute foot badness? Not covered, because insurance companies aren’t going to write a barefoot rider just because one person wants to walk around the fairground barefoot. For crying out loud. If you want to go to the fair barefoot, then spend your summer working with the fair’s insurance company and pay for the rider out of your own pocket. I bet it’ll cost more than a ticket.

    Anyway, the fair is great because the most country people and the most AVL people are side by side in the funnel cake line because while so many things divide us, funnel cake does not. (Unless you’re gluten intolerant, but you can still get a chocolate coated banana and a gallon of lemonade.)

    • Kriss

      The only “one time thing” that happened that caused this sign to be installed was publicity about women going topless in Asheville for the Go-Topless rally in 2011. The fair management panicked, thinking this “trend” would spread to the fair. That, of course, involved shirts. Absolutely nothing happened involving bare feet. The fair manager told me there had never been an issue with anyone’s bare feet.

      I don’t know if the fair has an insurance policy or if they are self-insured. But in any case, the fair’s responsibility for someone choosing to be barefoot is no different from any other business – none. Anyone choosing to be barefoot, by making that freewill choice, assumes responsibility himself/herself through the legal concept of assumption of risk. That, plus North Carolina’s pure contributory negligence law, would render the fair not liable for any “ordinary” injuries a barefoot person might sustain.

      Please read the article I wrote a while back, “A barefoot person does not increase a store’s liability risk,” which can be read here: https://borntolivebarefoot.org/a-barefoot-person-does-not-increase-a-stores-liability-risk/

  4. Worried

    Why so many criticisms and oppressive behaviours against the way people choose to dress (clothes and footwear) these days? At a time that large parts of our world are clamping down on disrininating against colour, sexuality and disabilities, do people posses such an absolute personal need/condition that they absolutely must find other people to discriminate against? It does appear to be emerging that way.

  5. Kriss

    Just a quick response to the “Editor’s note” above, “WLOS reported that this year, fair officials requested mask-wearing indoors…”

    Not the same and not comparable at all to requiring a mask be worn. People can read that, then make their own decisions and won’t be banned from the fair if they choose not to wear a mask. Yet shoes are required to be worn at the fair, and people have no choice.

    Wearing a mask (even outside) could potentially prevent a deadly disease. Wearing shoes at the fair has nothing to do with preventing a deadly disease or having any benefit whatsoever, except for the personal comfort level of individual wearers. If someone chooses to attend the fair barefoot, that is their personal decision, and no one else’s business.

    The “logic” of not requiring a mask but requiring shoes makes no sense at all.

  6. Pinche Gordo

    And I hear pants will also be required! What about those of us who cannot wear pants due to medical or psychological reasons? I find pants and underwear to be burdensome. If God meant for us to wear pants, we’d be born wearing them. I should also remind you, the Constitution of this great nation says nothing about having to wear pants!

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