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Drag queen story hour at ZooMontana draws hundreds of kids, supporters

Drag performer Mama Sushi reads books about wildlife and diverse identities at the zoo
Jess Sheldahl
/
Yellowstone Public Radio
Drag performer Mama Sushi reads "The Story of Ferdinand" during drag queen story hour at the zoo.

A crowd of more than 700 kids and adults listened to stories read by drag performers at ZooMontana in Billings on Wednesday.

Keldon Joyner, a Montana performer whose drag persona goes by Anita Shadow, read books about wildlife and diverse identities at the zoo as part of pride celebrations scheduled in Billings for the last full week of June.

Joyner says a call for more family-friendly events inspired the book reading.

"We have a larger turnout coming to this specific event because we have just as many people supporting what we do as we have against it," Joyner said. "And they recognize that what we need now is their support."

Protesters standing outside of ZooMontana.
Jess Sheldahl
/
Yellowstone Public Radio Station
Protesters standing outside of ZooMontana.

Posts on Twitter from U.S. Sen. Steve Daines and Rep. Matt Rosendale criticizing the event drew social media backlash. About 50 protestors gathered just outside the zoo entrance.

Katie Elam, the lead educator at ZooMontana and the secretary for 406 Pride, says the event was an overwhelming success. By the time the event started, she said, there were more than 700 people on the zoo grounds.

"Some of them have been here since the beginning, since the zoo opened, here to support this event," she said.

406 Pride has a pride parade planned for Saturday, June 25, in downtown Billings as well as other celebrations planned throughout the city on Sunday.