Watchdog appalled after videoing children tipping drag queens at Springfield’s Ozarks Pridefest, challenges elected leaders’ support of it

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – A “Pridefest” here featured young children actually tipping dancing drag queens a la a strip club – and even one youth performing in drag who was tipped dollar bills by admiring adults.

The June 10 Ozarks Pridefest, supported by numerous organizations and sponsored by several government entities, was billed as family-friendly, yet was anything but, says Michael Hasty of local citizens group Queen City Watchdog. Hasty posted videos of the event on the group’s Facebook page.

“To me, the two things that stood out the most were the kids tipping grown men dressed in drag – those men taking those dollar bills smiling and happily from children – and the video of the 15-year-old student … dancing, taking dollar bills from grown-ups,” Hasty tells The Heartlander. “Those are the two most outrageous and egregious things in my personal assessment, and of many people who have seen the videos as well.”

Hasty, an Iraq War Army veteran and father of four, said he and others are concerned about the impact of such exhibitions on children’s developing psyches. Indeed, the teen drag queen, who was 15 last fall, was inspired to perform at the age of 9 – and has done so across the country – after watching the 2016 Ozarks Pridefest.

Hasty said he covered this year’s event because he didn’t trust the news media to do so honestly.

“I wanted someone to go in and kind of dig into what really goes on in these events, because from my assessment I know the media is kind of biased in their reporting on that. I wanted to know what was really going on inside.

“A lifetime ago I was a bouncer, and I’ve done security for drag shows. I’m a father of four, and I understand that there are certain events that are adult entertainment, that are 18-plus entertainment. 

“I have seen throughout the country, over the last year or so, drag performances being geared to children (and) drag queen story hours. That’s something that kind of piqued my attention, and makes me worry as a father because, in my assessment of those things, that is not something that should be put in front of a child.”

It’s not about sexual orientation either, Hasty said, adding that if the show had featured sexually provocative performances by real women, “I don’t believe it would have been any more appropriate. My concern is the sexualization of children under the guise of tolerance and acceptance.”

Hasty also wasn’t mollified by one comment that said the performers had toned down their performances to make them “family-friendly.”

“I told him if you have to (tamp) down your performance, it doesn’t belong in front of a child, period. I’ve been firm on not sexualizing children. It’s sexually provocative, the videos show – the movements, the exaggerated movements, the sexual gesturing. You’re planting these ideas that kids should not be exposed to at such a young age. 

“These performers should not seek an audience of children and families. Their performances and their events should be 18 and up – in nightclubs where they originated – and let an adult choose what an adult wants to do. 

“I just feel parents that put their kids up to that and give their kids dollar bills are sexualizing their own children.”

Critics of such drag queen shows for children argue that they sexualize kids prematurely and plant the seeds of sexual obsession.

“To me, you’re going after young children, which is grossly unacceptable,” Hasty tells The Heartlander. “On my social media page I called it ‘GroomerFest.’ You’re grooming these children to become a part of this kind of community and lifestyle later in life, rather than preserving their innocence and letting children, as they mature and become adults, venture down these roads themselves.”

Asked why a parent would encourage a child to tip someone for a sexually provocative performance, Hasty said his group has been asking the same question – and getting hostility in return.

“We have been met with a barrage of hateful comments – people have tried to get our Facebook page taken down, (claiming) that we’re hate speech and everything for exposing it. As a parent, I can’t justify or find any reasonable explanation as to why someone would give their child money to tip (an exotic dancer).

“The No. 1 argument that I have received is that tipping a drag queen is no different than tipping a street performer. I told them that it’s absolutely not the same thing, because this is a sexual performance in my opinion, and in many others’. It’s not the same as watching someone playing guitar on the street corner and you’re walking up listening to music. There’s nothing sexually suggestive about street performers most of the time.”

Eight of nine city council members, including the mayor, joined in a statement supporting the event ahead of time. Hasty said his group has sent city officials visual evidence of what occurred.

“We emailed the videos and pictures and everything to the city council and shared our disgust with them. We haven’t heard anything back from them, of course. But we’ve shared what they were truly supporting when they said they stood for this.”


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