Kyle apologizes for 'despair' caused by Civil War Days cancellation, resists calls to resign
Lake County Forest Preserve District President Angelo Kyle apologized Wednesday for any "despair" he may have caused but deflected calls for his resignation over his role in the cancellation of the long-running Civil War Days.
He also backtracked on a previous comment that the 27-year-old event had run its course and promised an "aggressive and intensive" discussion by the full board regarding the future of the reenactment and any possible changes. That is scheduled for Aug. 5.
"Certainly, we always have to take the community's remarks and opinions to heart," Kyle said after the meeting. "We appreciate the passion they show. We want to bring all those passions together and see if we can reach common ground," he added.
Kyle also thanked the dozen or so people who spoke during the public comment portion of the board's annual outdoor meeting, coincidentally held under Shelter E at the Lakewood Forest Preserve near Wauconda -- facing what would have been the battlefield for the event originally scheduled for this weekend.
Some of the comments were direct and passionate but generally respectful for what has become a hot issue for Kyle and the district.
"I respect your perspectives," he said, after apologizing to the public, fellow board members and the staff for "any despair as it relates to Civil War Days."
But Kyle got an earful from several speakers who questioned his actions and said the possibility of canceling the event should have been discussed by the full board in advance.
"I am frustrated that all of us have to be held hostage by Mr. Kyle's ignorance of Civil War history," said Craig Warner, a Vernon Hills resident and Air Force veteran.
Commissioner Dick Barr asked Kyle to resign and Vice Chairwoman Julie Simpson be put in charge "until we can have a full discussion on this matter."
Simpson later said she appreciated Barr's support but backed Kyle.
"He made an error in judgment. We're on a road to repair," she said.
"We've all learned some lessons here," added Commissioner Steve Carlson. "This is our opportunity -- we can make this better."
Civil War Days, which features battle reenactments, actors portraying historical figures, period crafts and other elements, has been the district's largest single educational event drawing 500 to 600 reenactors and averaging 3,000 to 3,500 visitors.
Maria Weisbruch, executive director of the Wauconda Area Chamber of Commerce, said the actions showed a "blatant disregard for the process" and asked that action "up to and including his resignation" be taken against Kyle.
Wauconda village Trustee Adam Schlick also called for Kyle to resign.
The situation unfolded when Kyle ordered the event to be canceled in a June 10 posting on the district's website.
The move took other commissioners by surprise as they assembled for their regularly scheduled meeting the next day. Kyle said he believed the event had run its course and the district was under "time constraints" involving contracts associated with the event. However, he reversed the decision after listening to fellow commissioners during the meeting.
Kyle, who is black, later said reenacting a "war of enslavement of African Americans" was a historical event some people do not want to revisit.
But the action and Kyle's characterizations reverberated throughout the reenactment community and elsewhere, and thousands of social media posts, emails, calls and other communications piled in.
Citing unspecified safety concerns, the district on June 24 canceled the event. A subsequent investigation by the Lake County sheriff's office showed no evidence of criminal intent or credible threats.
The seriousness of the situation was illustrated Wednesday as all at the meeting were screened by armed forest district ranger police wearing protective vests.
"To be honest, taking a look at the world today, you don't want to take a chance," said John Tannahill, director of public safety.