CHARDON, Ohio (WJW) – Opponents in another Northeast Ohio community vow to protest a drag show brunch and a kids drag story hour.
Organizers of the event say they will not be discouraged and believe the anger and animosity is because people are misinformed about what happens at these events.
Unlike previous drag show-themed events in other communities, these are not being held in public spaces, but in a private restaurant and church in Geauga County.
Still, protesters have promised to attend, but the organizers say the show much go on, despite some of the ugly and vulgar threats they have already received.
Watching a drag performance from a previous time and place, Paul Mendolera says it is similar to an event that will happen at his restaurant in Chardon Square next month.
“We’re having a brunch with a drag show on April 1. Two shows and we’re just going to be serving food and, you know, Mimosas and Bloody Marys,” said Mendolera, owner of Element 41.
The restaurant owner says both shows, 60 seats each, are sold out and even though the crowd is limited to people ages 18 and up, he has received dozens of hate messages and voicemails.
“Telling me that we’re grooming the children and we’re a pedophile restaurant and they’re not going to support us and they hope that we burn down,” Mendolera said.
The restaurant is the venue for a fundraiser to benefit the Community Church of Chesterland, which has fought for LGBTQ rights for years. Later that afternoon, the church will host a drag story hour for people of all ages.
“If you don’t want to participate, don’t participate, but those who do want to have every right to do that without being accosted, verbally or physically,” said Rev. Jess Peacock of the Community Church of Chesterland.
“Whether it’s Victor Victoria with Julie Andrews or Robin Williams in the Bird Cage or Mrs. Doubtfire, drag is simply an art form that has provided entertainment to every community for ages,” said Meg Carver, financial secretary for the church.
“It’s like theatre. They’re dressed up, they’re lip-synching, they’re telling jokes, raising money for a charity,” Mendolera said.
“The white supremacists and hate groups have found the attacks on our community to be an opportunity to grow their ranks and lift up their own hateful message,” said Mallory McMaster, president of The Fairmount Group.
McMaster is supporting security and logistics for both events.
She attended Geauga County’s first pride event with other families in the square last June, with her four-year-old son.
Almost two weeks ago, two people were arrested during a drag queen story hour at a public park in Wadsworth. Mendolera says despite warnings that armed protesters will be in Chardon on April 1, he feels it’s important not to be intimidated.
“My daughter, we have family members, we have customers, we have employees that are all part of the LGBTQ community and it’s very important for us to show support and to show love,” he said.
Organizers say they have hired security for their events and have alerted the Geauga County Sheriff’s Office and Chardon police about the threats.
McMaster says if demonstrators do show up to protest, she is asking people attending the brunch or story hour not to confront them to reduce the potential for violence.