Taxpayer-funded organizations in Springfield, Missouri, are supporting this Saturday’s Ozarks Pridefest, which includes a drag queen known for lewd shows.
What’s worse, critics say, is how the drag queen performances have been marketed as “family-friendly” by event organizers.
Supporters include the city of Springfield and the Springfield Convention and Visitor’s Bureau (CVB).
This year’s headliner, drag performer Crystal Methyd, is considered particularly offensive, having recently appeared in Rolling Stone magazine dressed as Satan.
Methyd, whose stage name spoofs the very serious methamphetamine crisis in the state, embraces the occult, according to his website and the publicly released photos in Rolling Stone.
“The Devil is how they view us. But I make it glamorous and beautiful,” Methyd told the magazine, in a layout that shows him in Satanic garb, along with enormous red horns.
“Sometimes my style is a little kookie and crazy but also glamorous. I like to dress up as monsters and weird stuff. There can always be more. More is more and more is better.”
Methyd’s Saturday performance in front of children is possible in part because Missouri lawmakers failed to pass a bill earlier this year that would have placed age restrictions on public drag shows.
“While Florida & Tennessee acted, the #MoLeg failed to regulate public drag shows,” Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft lamented in a tweet when the bill failed last month. “In three weeks, the city of Springfield will host & sponsor a drag show on the city square headlined by drag queen Crystal Methyd! It’s time for a new direction!”
A spokesman for U.S. Sen. Eric Schmitt, R-Missouri, tells The Lion the event doesn’t even sound real, but rather like sick satire, and expressed regret it is actually happening.
“This reads like a bad The Onion headline, but sadly for Springfield families, it is not,” said Will O’Grady, Schmitt’s press secretary.
Those families’ tax dollars are also apparently helping fund the event.
Ozarks Pridefest lists the city as an “Ally Sponsor,” along with other entities such as Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri, and the Greene County Democratic Central Committee.
When The Lion asked the city manager about the partnership, he said the city doesn’t pass judgment on the type of content offered at any events it sponsors.
“Our functions participation is not related to performers,” City Manager Jason Gage said. “It is to pass out health information and recruitment information to the large number of attendees by obtaining an informational booth.”
However, Cora Scott, director of public information and civic engagement for Springfield, sent a statement denying the city was a sponsor of the event.
“The city in general is not a sponsor,” Scott told The Lion. “The city’s participation in Pridefest means obtaining a booth so we can accomplish our purpose mission, and obtaining that booth is considered by the event sponsor to be a form of sponsorship.”
Still, Scott estimated that the sponsorship package to obtain the booth at $500, but she wasn’t sure and requested The Lion ask the “Health Dept” about the costs.
Yet, Greene County clerk Shane Schoeller tells The Lion that concern about the drag queen headliner is reason enough to question the city’s spending on the event.
“That’s why we need to have more conversation about the appropriates of spending taxpayer money on an event that will introduce controversy,” he said.
Schoeller defends the right of private individuals and entities to fund an event like Pridefest, but not when tax dollars are used for what many taxpayers consider propaganda.
“Norms against indoctrination are gone, and children are now expected by the woke community to be taught and exposed to their personal views and beliefs on intimate matters,” Schoeller said in a statement. “I personally and strongly disagree with this arbitrary approach and I think a majority of the general public does as well.”
The Springfield CVB, which is promoting Pridefest, is technically separate from the city but is funded through a special 5% tax levied on hotels in the city. According to a city budget document, the funds are used “to promote the Springfield area.” Related eEenditures reported in 2022-23 total $4.2 million, according to the same document.
CVB board members are appointed by the mayor.
Members’ names and affiliations listed on the CVB website: Joe Wadkins, DoubleTree by Hilton; Bill Hobbs, Elliott Properties, Ltd; Amy Austin, retired; Callie Linville, City Utilities; Laura Head Elliott, Bass Pro Shops/Wonders of Wildlife/Big Cedar Lodge; Bob Belote, Springfield-Greene County Park Board; Brad Beattie, Springfield Cardinals; Missy Handyside, Oasis Hotel & Convention Center; Tim Rosenbury, City of Springfield; Nancy Riggs, Penmac Staffing Services and Collin Quigley, City of Springfield.
A request for a comment by the CVB went unanswered.