On Friday, hundreds gathered to watch Juneau Drag’s first appearance at the Southeast Alaska State Fair in Haines.
Volunteers in purple vests and fairy wings set up the catwalk as people of all ages crowded around the stage, many wearing glitter on their faces. The acts ranged from tributes to Stevie Nicks and Barbie to a Where’s Waldo parody.
For some residents, like Symaron Marquardt, hosting a drag show at the fair was a sign that Haines is a safe place for queer people.
“As a mother, it allows my transgender daughter to see people who represent her as a person, in a town that’s not very diverse,” she said. “So I’m really excited that the fair didn’t cancel it.”
There was some controversy leading up to the show. When fair organizers posted the line-ups, they got nearly 100 emails about the drag show — mostly in support. But some parents expressed concerns about kids being exposed to drag and what they thought would be sexual themes. Another person implied that drag should be met with violence.
But in May, fair officials announced they would not cancel the show. Instead, they would move it from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.
For Haines Borough Assembly Member Ben Aultman-Moore, the show means that the town is catching up with the rest of the world.
“Haines is very concerned about keeping its young people. And this is the kind of thing where young people are like, ‘Okay, it’s not 1954 anymore,’” he said.
Juneau Drag has had a large presence in Juneau and Skagway, but nobody KTOO spoke to could remember a drag show in Haines before.
“Skagway, they do it constantly,” Aultman-Moore said. “Nonstop drag show. Around here? We’re a little, like — crusty.”
Drag artist Lituya Hart Monroe has been performing for nearly a decade. She said the group wanted to make the show suitable for all ages — and she wished she had exposure to drag when she was growing up in Juneau.
“I didn’t have access to anything like this when I was a kid. And I really do wonder how that would have changed how I move around in the world and how I see myself,” she said.
The show may have been the most attended at the fair this year. When the very-tall Lamia Monroe stepped onstage in a classic Barbie chevron swimsuit, teen girls at the front screamed and cheered. Later, Luke TheDukeof Bell did a modern country medley. And when Gigi Monroe walked out as Stevie Nicks, it was the teens’ moms who lost their minds.
The show went until 11 p.m. After the curtain call, dozens lined up to have their photos taken with the performers.