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Too much violence

On May 21, my family and I attended the Oakdale Chocolate Festival. We recently moved to the area from Placer County. Our 6-year-old twins were thrilled to learn more about the history and culture of Oakdale. We spent time with the ladies at the Oakdale Museum & History Center. They warmly described the people and provided education on horse tacking, calf roping and Western attire. 

We continued on through the festival, enjoying food and perusing the classic cars. After a few hours of fun, we headed toward the exit. I noticed a large vendor table adorned with highly graphic illustrations depicting extreme violence and hate speech. Several items featured images of high-velocity assault rifles pointed at African Americans and other minorities. Photos and video available upon request.

My wife is a twice-deployed Captain in the U.S. Air Force with 20 years of service. Her mother immigrated from Iran to escape violence. This table shook us. Our young children questioned the depictions of violence. 

Medeiros Elementary in Turlock, where our twins attend kindergarten, experienced a hard lockdown last Tuesday. This was a day after the mass shooting in Uvalde. My children's classrooms didn't have enough tables and chairs for cover due to a school event. They sat quietly in the dark, completely exposed. While the lockdown uncovered a benign package left by a student, it was incredibly frightening nonetheless. 

It's been a very difficult week, with many challenging conversations with our children. We attended the Oakdale Chocolate Festival to enjoy our children in a safe, family-friendly environment. Instead, they were exposed to more images of graphic violence and hate.

I discussed this with the ladies at the Oakdale Museum as we departed. They agreed, apologized and informed us the vendor had "been an issue in the past" and they were "surprised to see him back." 

I contacted the Oakdale Chamber of Commerce on May 31 and spoke with CEO, Trisha Brown. She stated, "the Chocolate Festival Board is responsible for the vendors. I am not responsible for approval." As a chamber sanctioned event, the ultimate responsibility is on chamber leadership. I asked if she had attended the event. She responded, "No." She went on to say the vendor had been "talked to."

I hope this experience does not represent Oakdale or Stanislaus County. 

— Doug Huhn