Meghan Reckling, a 36-year-old Michigan Senate aide and chair of the Livingston County Republican Party, has launched a campaign to get an adults-only, sold out bingo event featuring drag queens banned from the Howell Melon Festival, set for Aug. 9-15.
"The Howell Melon Fest is supposed to be a family-friendly event and not one that should be sexualized with an event like this," Reckling wrote in a recent Facebook post. "Whether it's a wet T-shirt contest or raunchy drag queen bingo, this is not the appropriate time nor place for an event of this nature."
The Drag Queen Bingo and drag show, which is only open to those 21 and older and is already sold out, is scheduled to take place at the Historic Howell Theater from 9:30-11:30 on Aug. 14. That wasn't its first location, however. Organizers gave into pressure and moved the event from the festival's beer tent where it was originally supposed to take place. But that wasn't enough to appease the Howell City Council. The Council, in a special meeting Friday, threatened to rescind approval for the festival if organizers failed to agree to shut down the beer tent at 4 p.m. citing the threat of possible violence by those opposing the show.
Bradley Haas, the owner and co-director of Beauty Beyond Drag, the Grand Rapids-based company that is producing the bingo and show, said that while they have encountered resistance to their shows, the goal of which is to raise awareness – and funds – for local charities, they have never encountered anything quite like this.
"I think it's absolutely absurd," Haas told Pride Source. "For me, personally, I believe this is a political folly on Meghan Reckling's behalf to get the more conservative side riled up by closing the beer tent at 4 p.m. And I think it's just going to bring more hate fire our way."
"This is definitely not our first time dealing with something like this, but I've never seen it this bad," said Haas. "I've been told that I'll have funky wiring. I've been told that our [members who are] people of color are not welcome in their community. But we are still coming as far as I know."
"Honestly, it's so heartbreaking to see how many people say such bad things," Haas continued. "Even this morning I was reading comments, and I know I should not be reading the comments, but just all the people that think their children are going to be affected by it, or that we are some kind of evil force that's coming to their town to disrupt them. The fact that it's been blown up to be such a ridiculous situation is beyond me."
Haas said that the matter has started to affect his everyday life.
"A lot of people don't realize that behind all those hate-filled comments there's a person, and there's not just one person, there's a lot of people."
Equality Michigan Executive Director Erin Knott was plain in her response to the situation.
"Unfortunately, this manufactured controversy has created public confusion by using coded language to talk about the LGBTQ+ community and our allies," she said. "Drag Queen bingo is great adult fun, and this sold-out event is benefiting two great community organizations."