Highlands Ranch’s first-ever drag comedy show carried on despite the roughly 50 protesters who gathered outside the Southridge Rec Center on the evening of June 17 to oppose the event.
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Carrying signs that read “Don’t Drag Down Highlands Ranch” and “Freak Shows Belong at the Circus,” protesters said they were concerned about the show being hosted at a rec center, even though it was a ticketed and 21-and-older event.
“They’re trying to normalize behavior that is not traditional. We’re into traditional families and what they’re trying to do is erode the traditional family with this,” Joy Overbeck, a Parker resident and protester, said.
Protesters showed up an hour before the show started in an effort to get it canceled. Aaron Wood, who is a member of the Freedom Fathers group that organized the protest, used a bullhorn to shout opposition slogans like “No Drag at HR Rec Centers” and occasionally praying.
About five counterprotesters stood in the same area as the protest, which lead to heckling from both sides. At one point, a driver in a passing car shouted through his window at protesters, causing a minor confrontation.
A larger group of about 25 counterprotesters staged themselves at a different intersection by the Southridge Rec Center with rainbow umbrellas and signs that read, “All are Welcome” and “Enjoy the Show.”
Counterprotesters highlighted the importance of representation within the community and said they wanted to show support for LGBTQ residents of Highlands Ranch.
“It’s such a small community of queer people in Highlands Ranch and we can be loud when we need to be, but a lot of times we’re pretty quiet, so I feel like it’s really important, especially for younger kids, … to have exposure to queer people,” said resident and counterprotester Ryn Kerby. “The reason I’m here is to make (LGTBQ acceptance) more the norm. I want to be proud of the town I come from and right now, I’m not.”
Due to some opposition messages about the show directed at the Highlands Ranch Community Association, which hosted the event with the Cultural Affairs Association, the HRCA increased security at the event. The Douglas County Sheriff’s Office had deputies on bikes patrolling the area and also flew two drones throughout the evening.
Ultimately, the protesters' efforts to cancel the show were unsuccessful and shortly after the event started, protesters began to leave. Wood then asked protesters to sign up to give public comment at the June 21 HRCA board meeting to encourage board directors to prevent future events involving drag.
Counterprotesters are also working on signing up residents to give public comments in support of future events and expanding Pride offerings in Highlands Ranch.
“I want to make (the protesters) know it’s not welcome here and their message is not acceptable,” said Ro Murdock, who works in Highlands Ranch and took part in the counterprotest. “Representation is profoundly important and visibility saves lives.”
Inside the venue, drag performer Miss Jessica said the show was phenomenal and the crowd was begging for more. She added that she would love to be back in the future.
"What I love about Pride each year is that I get all kinds of requests from spaces that have never done Pride or queer events or drag shows ... and the opportunity to go to a place that doesn't do things like this makes me even more excited ," she said.
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