The event, originally planned by chamber of commerce subset Willard Business Association, was planned for Saturday. However, chamber president Carrie McClendon said the association decided to cancel the event due to “scheduling issues.”
“We’re not planing on having an event at all this year,” she said. “Maybe next year. The time frame wasn’t very good. We usually have something later in the year, in the fall. We’re talking maybe we can do something next year but don’t have any plans set.”
Since the announcement of the gathering, the city has received quite a bit of backlash in their support of the Hispanic community, which City Manager Jim Ludban says represents up to 25 percent of the city’s population yet has few if any representatives in the city’s leaders and administration.
Several veterans wrote to the Reflector expressing their concerns.
“Willard is throwing a party for all the immigrants coming in from Mexico etc. who take most people’s jobs in Willard,” wrote Christopher C Shepherd of Willard.
His letter went on to complain about immigrants not paying taxes and some being here illegally. “The city has never done anything for people here year-round paying the taxes,” Shepherd wrote. “They haven’t done nothing for veterans who are here working paying city taxes and put their life on the line.”
Shepherd and others who wrote to the Reflector went as far as threatening to call immigration authorities and alert them of the event.
When asked if these negative responses were the cause of the cancellation, McClendon said it had no bearing in the decision.
“No, the majority of the workers aren’t here until later in the year,” she said. “We don’t want them excluded.”
Ludban said he wrote a letter to the chamber when he heard the event was cancelled, saying he was “highly disappointed.” Ludban said he didn’t know the reason for the cancellation since the event was a chamber event and not put on by the city.
“I told them I hope they reconsider before cancelling,” he said. “There are a lot of Hispanic people that still live and work in the area and would benefit.”