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Festival apologizes for 'Hillary Clinton in a coffin' car show entry

It seems there's no escaping the politics of bad taste when a presidential campaign is in full swing. Just ask Leslee Chilcott.

The Village of Hamburg resident has attended BurgerFest for 20 years. But this year, she cut her visit short after visiting the car show with her four children. Hitched to a 1920s Model-T Ford was an open coffin on a trailer hitch with a full-sized doll inside representing Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. An image of Donald Trump's face, attached to the rear car window, making it appear as if Trump is looking down on Clinton's smiling-but-dead mannequin body. The coffin also featured beer taps on the side.

"That was enough for me," said Chilcott, who abruptly took her disappointed children home early Saturday afternoon.

When her 6-year-old son asked her why there was a coffin with a dead woman in it named Hillary, Chilcott said, "I had to explain to him that some people are mean. For me, it wasn’t a political stance for this person to have the dummy. It was a living person."

Organizers of Hamburg's BurgerFest have apologized for an entry into their Classic Car Show last weekend deemed to be in "extremely poor taste."

Making matters worse is the fact that car show judges gave the coffin-towing car an award for best presentation.

Car show organizer Sid Jack said he hadn't seen the car himself, and no one complained to him about it during the BurgerFest event.

"We at the registration desk didn’t know anything about it," Jack said. "Had we known, we would have asked him to leave."

He said the car owner, who appears to be a Dunkirk resident, will be banned from bringing the coffin to future car shows, if he's allowed to enter the car show at all. He also expressed regret that car show judges saw fit to give the car owner an award for best presentation. He noted that there were only three cars that were eligible for the award but said it was still a bad judgment call.

"It was definitely not intended for just a disgraceful display," Jack said of the award.

It wasn't until Chilcott took her complaint to Facebook that it came to the attention of event organizers.

"Very disappointed in this years event," Chilcott wrote on BurgerFest's Facebook page, along with posting a photo of the car. "Confederate flags. Trump support with a dead Hillary Clinton in a coffin. So much for family friendly, right Hamburg. Disgusting."

Other festival goers quickly chimed in, many also expressing their disapproval of the display.

BurgerFest later apologized for the car in a Facebook post:

"The BurgerFest Committee is reviewing an incident that occurred at the Classic Car Show, where a vintage car included a display of a 'dead Hillary Clinton' in a coffin. Although we support an individual’s right to free speech, this display was felt by many to be in extremely poor taste. We strive to be a family-friendly event and this was not an appropriate display at our venue. We apologize to all who were offended by the display. The BurgerFest Committee will meet with the organizers of the Classic Car Show to review the show’s guidelines to ensure that this does not happen again in the future."

Chilcott said that aside from the dead-Hillary Clinton car display, her family also passed a vendor booth draped with the Confederate flag, selling pro-Donald Trump gear at BurgerFest. She tried to overlook it, but passing the coffin was the last straw.

"It’s supposed to be family friendly, and this clearly was not," she said.

She hasn't ruled out returning to BurgerFest next year, though.

"Because it’s my hometown, I am optimistic that it will be better," she said.

Jack said he and other organizers are taking steps to ensure that such a display is not allowed again. Next year, he said, he'll have organizers and residents walk through the car show before the start of BurgerFest to ensure they are in keeping with the family-friendly nature of the event. Jack is also penning Chilcott a personal letter of apology.