Porter County commissioners can’t stop Expo Center event – Chicago Tribune

Porter County commissioners can’t stop Expo Center event – Chicago Tribune

An upcoming drag event at the Porter County Expo Center that was initially advertised as free to children 12 and under saw several protesters at Tuesday’s Porter County Board of Commissioners meeting. Through their attorney the board has asked for the wording regarding children to be removed and the event organizer Rogue Syndicate has complied.

The event, billed as “Halfway to Halloween Market and Drag Show,” is scheduled for 2 to 9 p.m. Saturday, May 20. In an email Rogue Syndicate described the event as a 70-plus vendor market with a one-hour PG-rated drag show at 7 p.m. The organizer has used the same format at the Expo Center since 2019.

“The Facebook event description originally stated that children under 12 were free, but that was the only place it was ever mentioned and had already been removed from the event page prior to the meeting,” the email stated. “To be clear, no flyers or promotional materials of any kind have ever been distributed by us for this event and it has never been advertised as ‘adult entertainment.’”

This is the second time in six months community members have railed against drag shows at county-owned venues. In October, a drag show for adults ages 18 and up at the Memorial Opera House that was a fundraiser for LGBTQ Outreach of Porter County drew protesters across the street.

Dawn Miller, a regular and vocal attendee at board meetings, spoke first. “Why is this being allowed to happen in our community, in our town?” she demanded.

Commissioners President Jim Biggs, R-North, explained this is not the first time Rogue Syndicate has held an event at the Expo Center. “Constitutionally, we can’t tell them no,” he said. “We have restrictions now. There can’t be any nudity. There can’t be anything vulgar.”

Miller addressed Commissioner Laura Blaney, D-South, pointing out that she has children and asking how she felt about the event. “I haven’t taken my children to a drag show, but if I wanted to and I was told I couldn’t I would be upset,” Blaney said.

“This is pedophilia,” Miller replied. “We’ve already had a drag queen story hour at our library,” she said. “Do we really need a man dressing up like a woman to go read to our children?”

A call to Porter County Public Library Director Jesse Butz revealed Miller’s claim about a drag story hour to be untrue. “It hasn’t even been in discussions,” Butz said, acknowledging that nationally there has been a conversation regarding drag queen story hours, but not for the Porter County Public Library, which operates in Valparaiso, South Haven, Portage, Hebron and Kouts.

“I was a little sad people were upset,” he said, wishing people had picked up the phone to inquire. “I would have said, ‘No, we’re good guys.’”

Three other women spoke out against the drag show. Linda Tomczak was in tears during her impassioned protest. “My heart is breaking for the children of our county, of our country, as I see the degradation of our values, of our morals,” she said, adding that she understands adults have the right to attend adult-themed programs.

“But when it comes to letting children, children 12 and under, to go into something like that free! It’s an outrage! I want to know as a citizen what right do I have,” she asked the board regarding her protest options.

Porter County Attorney Scott McClure explained a permit application for public demonstration could be obtained from the board office and would be considered at a future board meeting.

Suzan Thiry asked the board to watch some drag shows to inform themselves of what goes on when children are present. “They come up to children and they shake,” she said of shows she had seen online, though she did not clarify who produced them.

“They have this sensual music and it is evil. We will be praying for you because you will answer for the decision you make,” Thiry told the board.

“The cry of my heart is: ‘Who’s going to stand for the children?’” said Allana Burke of Valparaiso, who spoke last.

“Their parents should be looking out for them,” said Blaney. “I have no interest in being a nanny county. To make wild accusations that all people who participate in drag are pedophiles is absurd to me.”

Biggs said current policy allows children to be present at programs open to the public where alcohol is served and that is his biggest concern. He said this is different from wedding receptions that operate with a private guest list.

“I think it’s something we need to take a hard look at,” he said of allowing alcohol at public events that are not adults-only.

Shelley Jones is a freelance reporter for the Post-Tribune.

Source : https://www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/post-tribune/ct-ptb-pc-drag-show-st-0316-20230315-5q2pxq6duraoxcvsp7nyt4clci-story.html#ed=rss_www.chicagotribune.com/arcio/rss/category/news/

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