Rainbow Drag Brunch celebrates community and safe spaces

By Ken Kellar
Staff writer

In recognition of the 52nd anniversary of the Stonewall Riots and the birth of the Pride movement, one local organization is hoping to put on a one-of-a-kind event to celebrate and reunite a community that has been kept apart by COVID.

The Binesiwag Centre for Wellness (BCW) and its Queers and Allies program are working with the town of Fort Frances and the Flint House to hold a special Rainbow Drag Brunch on June 26, both to mark the significant anniversary as well as to celebrate June being Pride. The brunch will feature local and area performers and a special mock-tail menu created for the safe and sober event.

Bobby Hudon, a program director at BCW, explained that the plan is currently to have several different options available for those in the community who want to join in the festivities.

“We’re trying to use innovation to really make this event as successful as possible while celebrating diversity in our hometown and surrounding communities,” Hudon said.

“We are going to be opening the patio at the Flint House so that folks will be able to preorder their meal and then watch a drag show during the day. We’re going to be having two seatings, all featuring local artists and performers many of which are LGBT+. Innovation works in two ways, we’re going to be doing this as safely as possible and within COVID restrictions while doing it face-to-face, but we’re also going to be doing this as a virtual show as well. We’re able to make it as accessible for other communities as possible as well as for those who feel more safe at home. We’re really trying to reach the entire lifespan with this.”

The idea for the drag brunch itself came from BCW’s Queers and Allies program, who determined it was important to provide what Hudon called a “safe space” for people to be able to explore and express parts of themselves they wanted to present to the world.

“Of course, in queer culture a big part of that is, in fact, drag,” Hudon said.

“It allows us to normalize spaces and express ourselves in any way, shape or form we so desire in order to see more authenticity within ourselves.”

In order to take part in one of the scheduled drag brunch sessions, Hudon said people will be able to register at the website they are setting up expressly for the event at rainbowdragbrunch.com. Once on the website, individuals will be able to choose from several options depending on availability and level of comfort, from ordering a meal for takeout right up to potentially sitting down at the Rainy Lake Square to take in the drag show in person. People can also connect with BCW through the organization’s Facebook page. The first seating of the drag brunch will be at 10:30 a.m. with the drag performance to run from 11 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. and the second seating will be at 1:30 p.m. with the drag performance running from 2:00 p.m. until 3:00 p.m. Each seating will also feature a handful of engagement activities like lip-sync battles designed to encourage members of the community to take risks and be supported.

Running an event like this also takes support from the community. Hudon said the organization has been reaching out to different businesses for sponsorship of the event, a process that has seen some partnerships develop. However, the brunch is still looking for monetary contributions as well as promotional partnerships in order to help spread the word about the event and make it as successful as possible.

“With anybody who wishes to donate or support, we will of course showcase them as a partner and distribute promotional material they may have as well,” Hudon said.

“We’re also looking for a few volunteers just for the day to help with the set up and take down of the event.”

It’s been a difficult year across the world as the COVID-19 pandemic forced the shutdown or cancellation of almost every annual event on the books, and it’s only been fairly recently that groups and organizations have been able to think about returning to in-person approaches to their events. Hudon said that they have spent time planning the event in the reality of ongoing pandemic restrictions, with a back-up date also arranged in the event provincial restrictions tighten up again by the end of the month. While there are going to be plenty of safety measures in place to ensure that no one need worry about attending an event in person or contravening any restrictions, Hudon said it’s equally important to have the in-person option available to help bring the community back together after more than a year in some sort of isolation.

“I think this piece is critical, I truly feel, and I’m sure my fellow employees and employers at BCW would agree that human connection is essential,” Hudon said.

“We have been denied that through this pandemic for so long. This is kind of our response to the last couple of years, where we know the importance of human connection and joy and really celebrating moments and this month with each other, even at a distance. It’s very important to us to be able to be on the front line, in a sense, and really make this happen in a way where people are still safe, but able to connect in a human way. I think there is exhaustion from just meeting virtually.”

The Rainbow Drag Brunch is heading towards its show date of June 26, and anyone looking to learn more about the event or register for a seating or meal can visit rainbowdragbrunch.com.

Those looking to volunteer or contribute to the Rainbow Drag Brunch can contact BCW through their Facebook page, or by calling Hudon at 271-0700.