Storytime just got glamorous: Roaring Divas host a reading at the Bluebird Cafe
Several Republican-led state legislatures have introduced anti-drag bills, most of which are an attempt to stop drag queen story hours that have become popular at public libraries.
In Colorado, Congressmember Lauren Boebert has often used inflammatory or threatening language regarding drag queens and tweeted last August "Sending a message to all the drag queens out there: stay away from the children in Colorado’s Third District!"
The Bluebird Cafe in Glenwood Springs, which is in Boebert's district, ignored that message and recently held its first drag queen storytime.
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 event aims to provide an accepting space for kids to hear queer inclusive and bilingual literature, and a darn good story.
Ramona Chingona 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.
"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," said Chingona.
"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 hear stories read in Spanish in general, in school or any other place, and so to have a place also at a drag storytime, like it just kind of combines the best of both worlds. One of my favorite parts was seeing the kids waving 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 for all ages that are examples of queer-affirming and bilingual literature to the event that the families could take home for free.
Many kids left with stacks of books.
Two of the titles were “And Tango Makes Three” by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell and “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," he said.
"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 storytime 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 dad," said Gus.
"Now I'm playing that game with my friend Eli. But before I even started playing that game, I was 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 storytime.
"What I love about this environment is just there's an amount of love and literally colors and just acceptance and support in the air that we haven't really experienced going to library events as much, you know. The events we typically go to, I don't know, it may be a reflection 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," he said.
"And it's just a beautiful setting. So it really sets this event apart. I am a third generation Chicano, Mexican American, and I was not taught Spanish growing up. Bringing my children to a space where bilingualism and Spanish specifically 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 as he reads his bird guide book, he says that he likes the red birds and hummingbirds best.
Eight-year old Lucy identifies her favorite drag queen.
"I like the one in the dark purple dress," she said.
Lucy also mentions that she is learning a little bit of Spanish in school, but hasn’t quite gotten to the level of recognizing it during bilingual storytimes yet.
Lucy's mom says they chose this event for their Saturday morning because it's building community.
"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," she said.
"And the fact that this was a really fun environment (with) balloons and crowns and crafts and books and like, there's so much joy surrounding it like that, made me want to bring my kids. We had a lot of friends from Rifle, friends from like other places (where) I volunteer. Friends from Eagle County. There's actually way more people here that I recognize than I thought. We hope they do this again."
When storytime concludes, the performers take a quick break, and then roll into an adults-only drag brunch.
Some attendees who showed up to support the storytime stayed for the brunch, which began after lengthy clean-up and all of the kiddos have gone home.
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This story was shared with Aspen Public Radio via Rocky Mountain Community Radio, a network of public media stations in Colorado, Wyoming, Utah and New Mexico including Aspen Public Radio.