SALISBURY, Md. — For the second year in a row, a Maryland bar has sparked controversy after advertising "Midget Paintball Manhunt" as part of its lineup Thursday for bike week.
The event at the Oasis Bar 'N' Grill in Whaleyville is not officially associated with Delmarva Bike Week or OC BikeFest, both of which begin Thursday in Salisbury and Ocean City. It has drawn the ire of organizations, including the local Little People of America chapter and its president, Lizzy MacDonald.
"The event itself is using the M-word, which I don’t approve of because it is a derogatory word," MacDonald said. "It’s like using the N-word. You wouldn’t put the N-word on a flier, that’s not appropriate."
A petition started on Causes.com by the group garnered 486 signatures by Tuesday morning. The petition states that the use of the M-word, and the "form of entertainment" is "very hurtful."
"We also feel that this event is making a mockery out of us, which we also find disgusting," the petition reads. "We aren't to be made fun of."
But bar owner Bobby Riccio said the event is not targeted at making a mockery of anyone.
He argues that the little people who have been hired consider themselves to be entertainers, and he said they are thankful to have venues in which to perform.
"They are working every day, and they want to be active and working with people," Riccio said. "I am bringing it back by their request, and their pleading with me to bring it back because that’s their employment."
Last year, a similarly planned event drew criticism.
In this file photo, Bobby Riccio, of Oasis Bar 'N' Grill works on his winning drink recipe during a Bloody Mary competition on May 18, 2008. (Photo: Staff photo by Megan Raymond)
At a Bikers for Trump event at Oasis, which was also held to coincide with bike week, alligator wrestling and a paintball manhunt were planned.
However, after Rep. Lou Barletta, R-Pa., who was scheduled to appear at the event, threatened not to come after learning of these activities, the portion of the event that featured little people was canceled.
Riccio said this is his sixth year doing the event, which features a paintball manhunt, and last year was the first year he had faced backlash.
"Last year, I postponed it because of political nonsense," he said. "Unfortunately, you have people on the other side of the political spectrum who will rattle the cage. The (Little People of America) do not represent all little people."
On the official Oasis Bar 'N' Grill Facebook page, a post describing the events to celebrate bike week was filled with comments regarding the paintball hunt.
Ron Pagano, an attorney in Salisbury who is also a little person, was one of the people who commented.
"For this guy, what I think he wants to do is attract attention for his business," Pagano said in an interview. "And he’s doing that, but he’s ridiculing little people in the process. I commented and said, ‘Hey, why don’t you start a dwarf-tossing contest as well.' "
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