RiverPark Center Executive Director Rich Jorn said Tuesday the performing arts center has received complaints about its monthly drag shows in the Ghostlight Lounge.
Jorn said people against the shows have circulated a petition with misleading information and have posted the phone numbers of RiverPark board members on social media.
While the RiverPark Center has lost some donors due to the drag shows, it has gained others, Jorn said. The drag shows can only be attended by people age 21 or over and are just one facet of the programming RiverPark offers.
“As far as I’m concerned, RiverPark Center is for everybody,” Jorn said, and the center is working to provide entertainment for all audiences.
“You can say the doors are open to everybody, but you have to give them a reason to come through that door,” Jorn said.
Jorn said there have been rumors people opposed to drag shows intend to protest at a show planned for this weekend. Jorn said the issue began taking shape last June, when a petition was generated against a Pride Week drag show.
“They did a petition on Change.org saying, ‘This is not what Daviess County wants,’ ” but the petition was taken down, Jorn said.
There is currently a petition on the Conservative Change website that says, in part: “City (and) county funded facilities hosting events where men dress in women’s clothing and dance obscenely for the pleasure of others is disrespectful to women, and to our citizens in general, not to mention offensive.”
The petition asks that city and county funds be withheld from the RiverPark Center. The petition also targets the Owensboro Convention Center, which also held a Pride Week drag event last year.
Daviess Fiscal Court contributed $12,500 to RiverPark Center’s operating budget for fiscal year 2022-23, while also allocating funds for a security system and an upcoming exhibition on Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Moneta Sleet Jr. The city of Owensboro contributed $177,827 in funding to RiverPark for 2022-23. The city is also paying off a bond issue for the center, Mayor Tom Watson said.
“We started getting letters to the board of directors saying, ‘You have to stop what you’re doing immediately or we are going to talk to your donors’ and to city officials, Jorn said.
Jorn said RiverPark officials received a petition that had about 100 signatures against drag shows. The organizer of the petition was invited to present to the board but did not appear, Jorn said.
Of the rumored protest, Jorn said, “we are making sure everyone is made aware and making sure everyone is kept safe.”
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Jorn said multiple events are held at the Ghostlight Lounge, including standup comedy and karaoke. The venue is open only to people over age 21.
“First, they claimed its terrible for children, but it’s a bar, so you can’t get in if you’re under 21,” Jorn said. The performing arts center follows all laws about keeping minors out of the lounge, he said.
Opponents of drag shows “can’t get their minds around that we are upholding the rules,” he said.
Jorn said: “Our stance on diversity, equity, inclusion and access, we are 100% behind that, and we are going to continue to do that, because it’s the right thing to do.”
Regarding complaints that taxpayer funds are being used to host monthly drag shows, Jorn said members of the city’s LGBTQAI+ community “pay taxes, too.”
“The reality of it is, a performing arts center is always on the edge of progress,” he said. “We are going to do what we do, and we are not going to break any laws or do anything indecent.”
The facility still offers its traditional events, such as its Broadway Series, the Owensboro Symphony Orchestra season and the Owensboro Dance Theatre, Jorn said.
“Our goal is to offer something for everybody,” he said.
Watson said he has heard complaints about drag shows at RiverPark Center, and he tells people who criticize the events “to not go and not support it.”
“We checked with the legality of it, and it’s a freedom of speech scenario,” Watson said.
Watson said elected officials will likely discuss the issue when the city starts work on the 2023-24 budget.
“I’m sure there will be some discussion about it,” he said.
I didn’t know about any petition. If I did, it would have had my signature as well. And I guarantee it would have had many more signatures if everyone was made aware. I don’t know this Jorn individual, but from everything I have collected from these articles, he should resign his position or change it. I have been a donor and a ticket holder but not anymore. The RPC will not get another dime from me. And if our elected officials do not hold up the values that western civilization was founded on then we need to look at replacing them too.
I don't know "this Jorn individual" either - but you don't have to attend. If you would like some clean, wholesome fun - try barhopping in the 'Boro on the weekends....lots of clean entertainment there.
Clever response. I’ve never made an argument for clean, or wholesome fun. I’m arguing for natural and mentally stable fun. I am, however, glad that you recognize that there is nothing clean or wholesome about drag queens and their “shows.” Have a nice day, Sugar.
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