A flurry of emails from people expressing concern about a drag show this weekend on the Big Island will not succeed in canceling the event, organizers said.

Big Island locator map

The Mauka Makai Drag Show on Saturday at the Honokaa People’s Theatre is a fundraiser for the Honokaa Business Association, and is open to ticket holders of all ages.

Michelle Hartman, the association’s president, said she was surprised by emails she and other board members and local businesses have received about the show. One email included a photograph of some of the drag performers with Xs over their faces.

“We do a ton of community events. This is the first time we have experienced any kind of blowback,” she said.

The Honokaa People’s Theatre is set to host a drag show fundraiser for the Honokaa Business Association on Saturday. David Croxford/Civil Beat/2022

Some of the emails equated organizers of the show with “groomers,” meaning pedophiles attempting to exploit minors.

“Anyone who allows this grooming of children into perversion should be ashamed of themselves,” said Juhl Rayne, a South Kona resident who emailed the business association.

Nothing could be further from the truth, the organizers say.

They describe the upcoming show as a family-friendly event featuring G-rated performances and costumes, no touching of performers allowed, and all music pre-screened to ensure it contains zero vulgarities or sexually explicit language, said Marysue Joyce, the business association’s treasurer.

The Mauka Makai Drag Show is scheduled for Saturday evening in Honokaa. Courtesy: Honokaa Business Association

The emails have been “hurtful and scary,” Joyce said.

The business association has contacted police to let them know what’s going on. Board members said they are preparing for protesters to show up but hope they’ll stay home.

Police Capt. Reynold Kahalewai said he and other officers are aware of the situation and will do whatever it takes to ensure the community’s safety.

“I don’t want to explain what we’re going to do but we’ll be prepared to respond,” he said.

Michelle Melendez, a Big Island fitness and wellness specialist who lives north of Hilo, was among those who wrote to the board. She told Civil Beat that she’s not against drag shows but feels children should not be among the audience.

“It’s adult content,” she said.

In her email to the business association, Melendez said she is not anti-LGBTQ. But she considers children being let into a drag show as the equivalent of grooming.

“I have gay and lesbian friends and made a donation to an adult friend who had a sex change about 10 years ago,” she said in her email, adding that what is happening in society today is “very dangerous.”

Brenda Nelson told the business association that it was “disgusting to have young impressionable children attend such a horrible show” and described it as child abuse.

Nelson declined an interview request.

Hartman, the business association president, said if people don’t want their children to see the drag show, they can choose to stay home.

“It’s not like we’re having a gay pride parade in the middle of town,” she said.

The Honokaa Business Association leaders say they hold a wide range of community events throughout the year which raise money for scholarships and the drag show is just part of the mix.

Honokaa attorney Barbara Franklin, past president of the business association, said she’s heard no criticism of the drag show from within Honokaa, a small town of fewer than 3,000 people on the island’s northeastern end.

“The community has always been open, accepting and tolerant,” said Franklin, who plans to attend the performance on Saturday.

“I’m encouraging people to dress up for it. There’s few occasions to dress up in Honokaa so you might as well dress up for this,” she said.

Hartman and Joyce said they are excited to see the drag show happen on Saturday and have no plans to postpone it due to negative feedback, which they describe as coming from a small but vocal group. A drag show fundraiser for LGBTQ youth in Keauhou, south of Kona, was canceled last July after violent threats came in online, Joyce noted.

No violent threats have been made against the Honokaa fundraiser and they want it to stay that way, both board members said.

They were initially reluctant to speak with Civil Beat about the negative feedback for fear it would make matters worse.

“You don’t want to feed the hate,” said Joyce.

In the end they decided to share their story to raise public awareness about what’s been going on.

“Everyone in Honokaa has been supportive,” she said. “We’ve gotten zero pushback from within the community.”

The show is dubbed Mauka Makai because some of the performers are coming from Denver while others are local, according to a news release, which describes the fundraiser as “an evening of fashion, fun and fabulousness.”

An Important Note

If you consider nonprofit, independent news to be an essential service that helps keep our community informed, please include Civil Beat among your year-end contributions.

And for those who can, consider supporting us with a monthly gift, which helps keep our content free for those who need it most.

This year, we are making it our goal to raise $225,000 in reader support by December 31, to support our news coverage statewide and throughout the Pacific. Are you ready to help us continue this work?

About the Author