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Teenage 4-H'er's Pennington County Fair photo submission draws ire of local Republicans

The photo of a burning Trump-Pence sign was awarded a blue ribbon at the fair.
A photo of the photo in question.

A photo of the photo in question.

A teenager's submission to a 4-H photo competition at a county fair is drawing the ire of a local Republican group.

An image of a Trump-Pence campaign sign in flames and set against a dark backdrop, was judged at the Pennington County Fair in Minnesota. The photographer, an 18-year-old, earned a blue ribbon which, according to the judging sheet, is the second-highest score range possible, with judging focused mainly on qualities such as exposure, composition and mounting, rather than the content itself.

But one fair attendee — and later, Facebook users — took umbrage with the teen's photo. 

Someone shared the photo, with its blue Pennington County Fair ribbon hanging from the corner, with Valley News Live and the local Republican group. The Pennington County Republicans' deputy chair said on Facebook it was brought to their attention by a professional photographer. 

The group described the 4-H'er's photo as "offensive" and "absolutely not appropriate especially as a children's submission." It then directed followers who felt the same to call the fair board and local 4-H club.

The party also tagged the photographer — whose age is listed as 17 on the judge's form, though she is actually 18 — in a public Facebook post.

When criticized by some users for singling out the twelfth-grader, the group said "she is an adult. If she wants to put out adults and hate-filled content in public then she will need to accept the public criticism that comes with that. In fact, even if she was a minor as the entry indicates, public acts that are hateful can and should earn public criticism, regardless of who perpetrates them."

But one user suggested the group's complaints were incongruent with the "F--- your feelings" mantra adopted by supporters of Republican candidate and former president Donald Trump.

About 28 hours after publishing the post, the party disabled comments on the post.

The hullaballoo prompted a response from the Pennington County Fair on Facebook, with the fair citing the "controversial content of a 4-H photography art exhibit."

"The Pennington County Fair Association does not support the exhibits [sic] content or appropriateness," the brief statement read.

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Meanwhile, University of Minnesota Extension Dean Bev Durgan, in a message shared by the Pennington County 4-H page, said the group wants to acknowledge the "mixed reactions" from the community — while also supporting the 4-H'er who was "recognized for her technical and artistic photography skills."

"Both that acknowledgement and support are necessary, especially in a time where polarization seems to be increasing, both in Minnesota and nationwide," she wrote. "We realize that personal interpretation of this photo will vary depending on people’s perspectives."

She continued: "4-H has always been a place for young people to explore, learn and think for themselves. 4-H’ers may express their positions on a variety of topics, including social and political issues. We hope that all can agree that learning is at the core of 4-H. Beyond that, the matter is under consideration and it would not be in the best interests of 4-H to engage in a public discussion at this time."

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