Drag Queen Story Hour, a national program where drag performers read to and interact with kids to promote inclusivity and acceptance, had its local debut on Saturday with an event at Schlow Centre Region Library.
About 150 people — parents and kids of all ages — attended the free event, which featured members of the State College Queens. The Facebook page for the event also garnered wide interest in the weeks leading up to Centre County’s first Drag Queen Story Hour.
“I’m overwhelmed, I feel like I can fly,” event organizer Tamra Fatemi said.
The story hour featured three drag performers from State College Queens — Alonya, Aunt Carol and Hexxa — reading children’s stories primarily centered around diversity, LGBTQ pride and breaking gender stereotypes.
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The event also included an arts and crafts section where kids could make crowns and bracelets.
State College Queens, also known as State Queens, is a local group of both drag queens and kings that hold events and perform at bars and restaurants around the area.
Alonya is the director of the State Queens and said that the group has wanted to hold a local story hour for years.
“We really do want to start having an influence on children, so that they’re aware of their surroundings of ... who is in the community, and opening up that door for acceptance,” Alonya said. “Not every kid gets to grow up with that, and I think that’s so important to have growing up.”
Parents who brought their kids to the event said they wanted them to have fun while learning about respecting and accepting others. Melanie Morris said her son, Theodore Ziegler, was excited leading up to the event.
“He’s been talking about it for a week and a half, ever since I knew that this was happening,” she said, adding that they watch the popular show “RuPaul’s Drag Race” together.
“Yeah, I enjoyed it a lot!” Theodore said.
While Drag Queen Story Hours have been held across the country, the program has been met in some communities with harsh backlash and protests from conservative and religious groups.
There were no protestors at Schlow on Saturday, but Fatemi said that she received multiple emails and phone calls in the days and weeks leading up to the event from people who disagreed with drag performers being around kids.
Earlier this week, Alonya said that the event was all about inclusivity and awareness, and thought the only people that might react negatively would be those who are naive to the culture of drag.
“I’m hoping that in State College being this melting pot of central Pennsylvania, it’ll be a good event and we won’t have any negative backlash,” Alonya said.
As of now, the story hour was a one-time event, but Fatemi hopes there will be more in the future.