Drag story hour carries on in Seward despite a bomb threat and evacuation

a drag queen
Drag queen Totally Tiff walking with story hour participants after evacuating from the Seward Community Library and Museum on June 8, 2024. (Jamie Diep/KBBI)

June is Pride Month, when members of the LGBTQ+ community and allies celebrate their identities. But a drag story hour in Seward faced a bomb threat on Saturday.

Families were working on arts and crafts at the Seward Community Library & Museum while waiting for a story hour led by drag performers. That lasted until the building was evacuated after a caller threatened to bomb the place in response to the pride-themed event.

The story time was part of a series of events organized by the Seward Pride Alliance to celebrate Pride Month.

Tyler Pelo, is a board member of the Seward Pride Alliance and read at the event as a drag queen going by the name Totally Tiff. He said Seward police evacuated the building just before the reading began and they quickly moved the event to the Alaska SeaLife Center nearby.

“This year, we’re kind of joking before actually reading that there wasn’t much of a hullabaloo this year, and the turnout wasn’t as large. It wasn’t a novel event,” Pelo said.

a library
A Seward police car outside the Seward Community Library & Museum on June 8, 2024. (Jamie Diep/KBBI)

The alliance has held pride events in Seward for the past five years including their first drag story hour in 2023.

This isn’t the first time the story hour has faced pushback in the town. Anthony Baclaan is the board president of the alliance. He said the event has had people try to steer attendees to a Resurrection Bay Baptist Church event last year while others prayed in hallways.

“There were a small group of community members who went to a city council meeting before to try to get the event canceled,” he said.

Other cities in the state faced challenges in hosting these story hours as well. Across the Kenai Peninsula in Soldotna, a similar event was postponed earlier this year due to online pushback. The Ketchikan city manager also canceled a drag queen story time from running last year in response to public feedback.

Seward Deputy Chief of Police Karl Schaefermeyer said as of Saturday, the call didn’t appear to come from a local resident.

“We’ve been in contact with the FBI, and we’ll continue to track down some leads there and see if we can find out who’s responsible,” he said.

The pride alliance also reported a “Welcome to Seward Pride” sign had also disappeared after Friday evening.

But the storytime prevailed nonetheless in the Alaska SeaLife Center.

a library
Drag performers Totally Tiff (left) and Mars reading during a drag story hour at the Alaska SeaLife Center on June 9, 2024. (Jamie Diep/KBBI)

Totally Tiff, also known as Tyler Pelo, the alliance board member, kicked off the story hour with “Where the Wild Things Are” by Maurice Sendak. The kids even got to roar like “wild things.”

Families listened to a few stories from Totally Tiff as well as another drag performer, who went by the name Mars. Several went to the Flamingo Lounge parking lot for more arts and crafts afterwards. The lot served as a gathering space for various events throughout the weekend.

Baclaan, the alliance’s board president, said they have received a lot of support following the bomb threat. Several Seward businesses responded by organizing a fundraiser for the pride alliance within hours of the threat.

“Just to see the outpouring of support and love from our community, and, from probably all across Alaska and across the United States, to see just the support and love that is amazing that came in so quickly, and people who are showing that they’re not going to stand for it,” Baclaan said.

By Sunday evening, the community raised $12,990 altogether, $5,000 of which came from a matching fund from the businesses.

Baclaan said the funds will go towards merchandise like stickers and flags to increase LGBTQ+ community visibility locally and across the state.

Previous article18-year-old Mat-Su grad seeks seat on school board that silenced him
Next articleAnchorage Mayor-elect LaFrance announces chief of staff and municipal manager