More than 200 people crowded into the Lewistown District Volunteer Fire Department with multiple bingo cards and bottles of alcohol to get toasty on a cold, snowy Saturday night.
Walking around and mingling with the crowd during rounds of bingo were Araya Sparxx, Madison St. Lawrence and Jayden Elise—three drag queens dressed ever so perfectly to make the night that much more fun.
And after bingo, they were performing a drag show for the crowd.
Araya Sparxx, dressed as Shirley Temple, mc’d the rounds of bingo and perfectly played with the crowd that echoed laughs and cheers after every joke.
“You’re going home with a partner tonight,” she said to one bingo winner.
Winners from each round received a sex toy to take home.
“You’re in for a good time tonight, or maybe tomorrow, or maybe both,” she said to another winner.
Although the drag show brought out a multitude of people, it was a perfect event for a girl’s night out.
Erin Elliott and Kelly Swart, both from Frederick, came to the event because it looked like a fun way to spend a Saturday night, and it supported charity.
“We love drag queens,” Elliott said.
“We used to go to drag shows all the time when we were younger,” Swart said. “We used to have such a blast so I said, ‘we’ve got to go.’”
As they were driving to the event they thought about how a drag show is pretty progressive for that part of the county and were surprised that it wasn’t down in Frederick City.
“I think it’s a great thing,” Swart said. “It probably attracts people from around here.”
Elliot added that it brings more diversity to the area as well as awareness.
“It’s a fun event,” Elliott said. “If an event like this isn’t in Frederick, we’ve got to go down to Baltimore to hang out with the queens.”
Both women said they’re most excited about the drag show after bingo.
“They’re just always positive,” said Elliott. “They just make you feel fabulous and great.”
Swart said she was in search of some good makeup tips as she said drag queen makeup is fabulous and she wants to know how to apply it herself.
“How do they do that? How do they look so great,” Swart said. “I want those [eye] lashes. Maybe we’ll get some tips along the way.”
Sparxx, the drag queen from Hagerstown, said she was most excited to interact with the audience during bingo and the show later in the evening. She said the show ranged from gospel to Rhianna to Dolly Parton.
“Interacting with the audience is always my forte with any of my performances,” she said. “In this kind of atmosphere they’re ready to have a good time, so that edge is already taken off. It’s easy to communicate and joke around.”
Even though the event was outside a city that may be more inclusive, she said she still felt very comfortable.
“We can’t change the views and the minds of people if we’re not putting it out there for them to understand and to relate to,” she said. “I think that we’re always going to run into a wall where folks are not open to things, but I think with events like this we’re able to really open the eyes of a lot of folks.”
She said one perception about drag queens that is false is that the queens want to be women, but most don’t.
“The way that I can best describe being a female impersonator, a drag queen, is that it’s no different than an actor in any kind of show,” she said. “This is my persona. This is my character and when I’m done with the show tonight, it’ll all come off and I’ll go home. I’m not leaving here in female attire. When you go to a movie, you’re not seeing Ben Affleck, you’re seeing Ben Affleck’s character.”
A big reason why Jayden Elise does female impersonations is to raise money for charity. She said in the past she’s been a part of events that have raised money for AIDS response and awareness, animal shelters and children in need.
Some of the funds from the event will be donated to the Lewistown Fire Hall and hundreds of boxes of macaroni and cheese were donated from attendees that will be given to local children.
But in any situation, she still remains cautious of the community around her when she’s dressed in drag.
“Being from Frederick County my whole life, I do know that, yes, they’re not quite as progressive around certain parts of the county, but that means that we just need to go there,” she said. “We need to be a presence.”
She, too, was most excited about mingling and having fun with the crowd.
“I like to be the loud mouth,” she said. “I’m from the South originally, I like to be the mouth of the South.”
Elizabeth LeBlanc, founder of Echo Events — the organizer of the event, said she also thinks that the community is ready to be inclusive, as she said Frederick over the years has become more aware and more cognizant of all the different types of families.
“People just haven’t been giving them the opportunities,” she said of the LGBT community. “I think this kind of show says we’re ready.”
She said when firemen respond to a call, they help people regardless of their sexual orientation or race.
“Families are families,” she said. “They’re just people like the rest of us. People are people, we’re all in this together.”
“The community infrastructure supports all of us, no matter what our gender is, no matter what our love life looks like, no matter what our family structure looks like,” she added. “We have to be supportive of a wide variety of lifestyles.”