County issues statement about national anthem performance at Demolition Derby
Admits rendition did not “meet our standards of decorum”
After Summit County was inundated with phone calls, emails and social media comments from fair goers who were disappointed with the performance of the national anthem at the Demolition Derby on Saturday, officials released a statement addressing their concerns.
“It certainly didn’t meet our standards of decorum for the national anthem which is why we are going to change our procedures so we can better ensure that our standards are met in the future,” said Tom Fisher, county manager.
The performance by Jennie Gautney preceded the Demolition Derby at the opening night of the Summit County Fair in Coalville in front of a sell-out crowd. The County Fair Board is responsible for selecting local performers for the national anthem at the fair.
In a statement to The Park Record on Tuesday, Gautney said she, herself, was disappointed with her performance.
Comments on Summit County Fair’s Facebook page referred to the incident as “disappointing,” “embarrassing” and “offensive.” Another said “it was an embarrassment and the county should have cut her mic.”
Others sympathized with the singer: “My heart does go out for this girl though! I’m sure she is embarrassed by what she did and I hope she learns from her mistake.” Another said “It’s a small town fair. Have some compassion for the girl. She must be mortified by all of this.”
Some commenters suggested the singer was under the influence of alcohol. “I just looked her up and she’s normally not a bad singer. So sad she let alcohol ruin her talent.”
One man said he was disappointed with the marketing of the fair and the emphasis on the Beer, Wine and Spirit Garden. However, Fisher said the Beer, Wine and Spirit garden has been in place for several years and he didn’t believe there was any more focus on it versus other events traditionally associated with the fair.
In her statement, Gautney said she was “incredibly sorry” and “extremely embarrassed.” She said she was honored to have the opportunity to sing at the event because she was born and raised in Francis.
“I thought it would be a great fit. I was excited. I had never performed in an arena before,” she stated. “I know it was awful, I accept responsibility and just want to move forward and make it right. My intentions were absolutely not to be disrespectful to our country or the national anthem and, most importantly, not to hurt anyone at all.
“… I wasn’t ‘hammered,’ but after listening to my own video I had recorded, I absolutely can see why I was accused of being hammered,” it read.
Gautney addressed difficulties with the speaker system and how the sound echoed throughout the arena. She said she did not conduct a sound check prior to the performance.
“… The rendition I chose was slow to begin with, which made it even worse,” Gautney stated. “I myself didn’t even want to continue. I accept full responsibility on my part and just want to say how sorry I am …”
Fisher the county tries “very hard” to uphold the community’s values and had no intentions of offending anyone. Once the county released the statement on social media, several commended the county for addressing the situation.
Fisher said tighter controls will be put in place in the future to “make sure as people are coming up to perform they are prepared.”
“I have no idea what caused the performance to be the way it was. What I’m referring to is it could be that there was an equipment issue,” Fisher said. “We just need to be able to talk to the person ahead of time to gauge their nerve levels and issues like that. The speculation of why this happened to me is simply that we don’t know the issue of why the performance was done the way it was done, neither do any of the people making the comments.
“Ultimately, I’m in charge of the fair, but I what I would like to concentrate on is what we can do in the future to make sure that the performance of the anthem is done to the standard that we want it to be done,” he said.
Meredith Reed was elected to a two-year term as chair of the Summit County Democratic Party and said she sees an opportunity to ride the so-called blue wave that saw a Democratic surge nationally and within the state.