Standing room only at fabulous first Drag Queen Story Time

The family-friendly event kicked off with little issues and lots of rainbows and camaraderie.
A photograph of rainbow umbrellas outside the downtown Reno library

Volunteers with rainbow umbrellas lined the streets of Downtown Reno to escort families with children into the library for the first of three Drag Queen Story Time events this summer. The volunteers were with Our Center, an organization whose goal is to maintain a safe space for the LGBTQ+ community. The Washoe County Library System is hosting these three events in conjunction with Pride Month, and the Reno Pride Parade in July.

“They reached out last year for support to see if they needed anything and we had a conversation with some of the staff at Our Center about partnerships for this,” said Jeff Scott, director of the Washoe County Library System. “That’s a natural alliance for us. We’re working on our diversity, equity, inclusion, programming, strategic planning, that was a big thing that came out of it and so we’re looking to strengthen those partnerships.”

A photograph of the front of the downtown Reno library with people waiting in line, many holding rainbow-colored umbrellas
Community members wait outside the downtown Reno library for the first Drag Queen Story Hour, on June 15, 2023. Credit Will Houk.
A photo of three people, one dressed in drag, all holding rainbow umbrellas
Community members hang out outside the downtown Reno library with rainbow umbrellas. Credit Will Houk.

Last June during a Drag Queen Story Time event in Sparks, armed protesters associated with the extremist group Proud Boys intimidated patrons. In response to that incident, the Washoe County Library System decided to partner with Our Center to help de-escalate and assist with keeping the peace at this year’s event. Volunteers from Our Center received training in de-escalation techniques from Black Rock Rangers before the event to ensure a peaceful and calm experience for the families and children.

“It’s important to have inclusivity in general, and to recognize people as people and to accept everybody, no matter how they identify, how they choose to present,” said Kelly Tanguay, programming and volunteer coordinator for Our Center. “And I think it’s really cool to see families come out and maybe have some exposure to some things and some excitement and some joy and some inclusivity that maybe they wouldn’t have regularly.”

While there were a number of protesters at Thursday’s event, they were far outnumbered by the “Rainbow Brigade” volunteers, allies from Our Center who held rainbow colored umbrellas to shield attendees from the protesters as they entered the library. The event was calm and peaceful with no major conflicts between the two groups.

A photo of two people standing at a booth run by Our Center Reno
Volunteers with Our Center participate in the first Drag Queen Story Hour at the downtown Reno branch, June 15, 2023. Credit Will Houk.

The read aloud quickly reached capacity as 75 parents and children filed into the library for Drag Queen Story Time with Ginger Devine, who said this event is critical to building excitement about reading. “One, children’s literacy is important, and it’s important in Nevada first and foremost.  This is an opportunity that folks have to inspire children to read, to have children captivated by stories and stir their imaginations and instill within them a want to get their library card and to check out books for summer reading,” Devine said.

But it’s much more than that. Devine said these events are crucial to help more people see themselves in the community.

“We know that representation matters. We know that representation is a life-saving thing, and that’s not just some fantastical notion pulled out of the ether. That is real. That is a fact. When individuals, especially from marginalized communities that have been historically silenced or ostracized…see members of their community at these events doing these things just like everybody else, that has a visceral impact on their sense of self, on their well being.”

A photo of drag queen Ginger Devine standing in front of a rainbow curtain
Drag Queen Ginger Devine at Drag Queen Story Time in downtown Reno on June 15, 2023. Credit Will Houk.

Parents in attendance seemed to echo this sentiment, including Reno resident Candice Powell.

“It was great. It was a wonderful opportunity for our kids to be read to. And I mean, what a beautiful collection of people, right? Even the volunteers out front, the umbrella people, I mean, just what a lovely, lovely event. Who wouldn’t want to bring their kids to such a nice thing?”

Editor’s Note: At the Sierra Nevada Ally, we believe in the humanity of all people, including those who identify as LGBTQ+ and we will not engage in any debate that argues otherwise.

A photo of the table from Our Center, northern Nevada's LGBTQ+ organization
Credit Will Houk
A photo of several craft items to help people decorate with, including glue, glitter and buttons
Community members were offered crafts and other decorative items to use during Drag Queen Story Time on June 15, 2023. Credit Will Houk.
A photograph of several buttons offering different pronouns.
Buttons with different pronoun options were offered to those at the Drag Queen Story Time in downtown Reno, June 15, 2023.


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