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Organizers say controversy over drag queen story hour at ZooMontana has driven support

A silhouette of activist seen through a pride flag.
Sergei Supinsky
AFP via Getty Images
Criticism of the zoo's drag queen story hour has drawn both negative and positive attention to the event and other pride celebrations planned in Billings throughout the week.

Drag performers in ballgowns will read kid-friendly books about wildlife and diversity at ZooMontana in Billings on Wednesday in celebration of Pride Month.

Despite pushback from members of Montana’s congressional delegation and others on social media, the event sold more tickets than expected.

Walt Donges with 406 Pride says social media posts from Sen. Steve Daines and Rep. Matt Rosendale drew both negative and positive attention to drag story hour and other pride celebrations planned in Billings throughout the week.

"Now instead of expecting a crowd of two or three thousand at pride on Saturday, it will probably be three to four thousand," Donges said. "Instead of 40 kids at the zoo, thank [Daines and Rosendale], because now we made [ZooMontana director] Jeff [Ewelt] a little more money by selling 150 tickets to a story hour. And again, the benefit will be to the kids.”

zoo montana statement.png
A statement from ZooMontana director Jeff Ewelt in response to criticism of this week's drag queen story hour event.

Ewelt says the zoo had received overwhelming support in the form of donations and record membership sales in the wake of the social media backlash.

"We are going strong, the support is going strong and that is really what we’re focusing on," he said. "And not to mention, we’re focusing on the event for 406 Pride. This is an important moment for them and we want them to be able to shine and enjoy the event as they intend to.”

The Drag Story Hour will be Wednesday from 12-4 p.m. Billings Police will provide security for the event.