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Storytime just got glamorous: Roaring Divas host a reading at the Bluebird Cafe

Lately restrictive legislation around the country has made being a drag performer in some states difficult and even dangerous. Most notably the aggressive stance recently passed in Tennessee categorizes drag solely as “adult cabaret performance” which would be banned in public spaces or in areas where they could be viewed by anyone under 18. The bill is currently temporarily blocked by a Memphis judge. In Western Colorado, a local drag troupe is holding their first Drag Queen Story Hour.
KDNK’s reporter Hattison Rensberry drops in to see what all the fuss is about.

"It is a crisp spring morning at a downtown coffee shop, and the cafe is closed for a private event. Adults sit at tables, reading and chatting quietly. And in the back a group of children and their guardians sit attentively. 
People are here for Drag Queen story hour, an activity where performers read picture books to young children similar to those held at libraries. 
This version of the free event is aimed at providing an accepting space for kids to hear queer inclusive and bilingual literature, and a darn good story. 
Ramona Chingona (Chin-Go-na) is a founding member of the Roaring Divas, a vibrant group of drag performers based in the Roaring Fork Valley. She describes the experience as magical, and when I ask her about what makes drag queen story times unique, she has this to say:

"We're coming into the space as a character as you know, what society sort of tells us that we're not allowed to be. And so when we walk into the space full of kids looking at spirits and fabulous as we do, it helps to encourage them and give them representation and visibility of, you know, if they can do that, then what am I capable of then? And kind of being able to chase their dreams, whatever that means for them.
And so to be able to bring myself as the fierce Latina that I am in drag, to be able to read stories in Spanish, I didn't get to. Stories read in Spanish in general, in school or any other place, and so to have. Take place also at a drag story time, like it just kind of combines the best of both worlds.
One of my favorite parts was seeing the kids is waving the, the pride flags at like 4, 5, 6 years old. It's adorable. And then with reading the stories, seeing some of the parents get emotional"

The Rocky Mountain branch of queer activist group Gay for Good donated fifty books that are examples of queer-affirming and bilingual literature to the event that the families could take home for free, and many kids left with stacks of books for all ages. Several titles included were “And Tango Makes Three” by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell, as well as “Bye Bye Binary by” Eric Geron. Organizer Kaleb Cook spoke about the importance of making events like this equitable for all.

"I think it's super important as you run an equitable nonprofit to make sure you're ingraining language equity.
And so providing literature and resources in both Spanish and English at the same time is incredibly important. And then also for those in-person events, making sure that we're providing American sign language translations as well."

One attendee, a six-year-old boy named Gus, plays separately from the story time with a pride flag in his hair. His fashion choice has inspired the cafe staff to wear theirs similarly. He’s taken the opportunity of a wide-open coffee shop to play some of his own games with a friend. 

"I know it's their first time and it's also my first time, but it was kind of boring for me, so I decided to come over to my, to my dad. Now I'm playing that game with my friend Eli. But before I even started playing that game, I was um, reading my bird guide book."

Gus’ dad watches on and weighs in on the importance of bringing his children to experiences like this. His wife holds their three-year-old while sitting across the room, listening intently to the story time.

"What I love about this environment is just there's an amount of love and literally colors and, and just acceptance and support in the air that we haven't really experienced going to, to library, uh, events as much, you know, um, the events we typically go to, I don't know, it may be a reflection of, of me or something, but it's like the community is there, but they're there and they're sitting quietly and they're just. There to entertain their kids and then leave. But here, it's like the whole community coming together to show love for one another and to support one another and to celebrate visibility and love. And it's just a beautiful setting. So it really sets this event apart. I am a third generation, uh, Chicano, Mexican American, and my, I was not taught Spanish growing up. Bringing my children to a space where bilingualism and Spanish specifically is, is welcome and celebrated is something that's very important."

Gus is one of a few children who brought their own books from home, and says that he likes the red birds and hummingbirds best.
I then asked eight year old Lucy who her favorite drag queen was.

"Um, I like the one in the dark purple dress."

Lucy also mentioned that she is learning a little bit of Spanish in school, but hasn’t quite gotten to the level of recognizing it during bilingual story times yet. I then asked her mom why they chose this event for their Saturday morning, and if they had any friends in attendance.

"I feel like sometimes this valley can feel really small in terms of the population or who you know, and I just feel like it's so important to build queer community and also as a person raising kids, just like having kids be aware of all the various resources and also all the ways that they get to be in the world, and the fact that this was a really fun environment that there. Balloons and crowns and crafts and books and like, there's so much joy surrounding it like that. Um, made me wanna bring my kids. We had a lot of friends, friends from Rifle, friends from like other places I volunteer, friends from Eagle County. There's actually way more people here that recognize than I thought. Um, we hope they do this again. This is really fun. Eli, did you have fun today?"

"Yes. It was amazing!"

When story time concludes, the performers take a quick break, and then roll into an adults-only Drag Brunch.
Some attendees who showed up to support the story time stayed for the brunch, which began after lengthy clean-up and all of the kiddos have gone home. 

Notably, Representative Lauren Boebert of the district this show was held in, has often been quoted as using inflammatory or threatening language regarding drag queens, even going so far as to tweet "Sending a message to all the drag queens out there: stay away from the children in Colorado’s Third District!"
Our reporter notes that children at the recent story time event seemed unbothered, and their parents content.

Hattison Rensberry has a Bachelor’s Degree in Graphic Design and Drawing, but has worked for newsrooms in various capacities since 2019.
She also provides Editorial Design for the Sopris Sun.