Drag shows debated after Daviess Co. leaders exclude RiverPark Center from budget draft

Drag shows debated after Daviess Co. leaders exclude RiverPark Center from budget draft
Published: May. 4, 2023 at 10:19 PM CDT
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OWENSBORO, Ky. (WFIE) - The RiverPark Center was excluded from the Daviess County Fiscal Court’s budget draft. As the draft was presented on Thursday, members of the public were present and debated drag shows at The GhostLight Lounge.

Judge Executive Charlie Castlen prefaced the public comment period at its first reading by saying it was made with compromises.

“We debated, we discussed, and yes, at times we were very frustrated,” Castlen said. “But in the spirit of cooperation, we came together and created a workable document.”

For months now, people have attended meetings of the Fiscal Court and the Owensboro City Commission calling for the RiverPark Center to be defunded on account of its hosting of monthly drag shows.

People like Michael Schoenwald have said a drag show shouldn’t be funded by public dollars.

“Since there is city tax revenue going to the RiverPark to the tune of over $200,000, I think the community should have some say as to what is happening at the RiverPark,” he said.

The county’s contribution is really just $12,500.

People like Jordan Blake Key and the many people who attended to oppose the defunding said they are part of that same community, and they should also have a say as to what goes on at the RiverPark.

“We ask that you as representatives of our county value the RiverPark because we do,” he said. “Whether they have drag shows or gospel shows, Pride Night or Ted Nugent, Comedy Night or the Nutcracker.”

The Fiscal Court has not said that the lack of funding is specifically because of drag shows, though Judge Executive Castlen did point to “divisiveness” from drag shows when proposing the budget.

[PREVIOUS: Owensboro RiverPark Center loses county funding in proposed budget]

Key and those he represented at the meeting said they feel it must have been a deciding factor since the budget followed months of complaints.

“So then the county defunds the entire RiverPark it was like, ‘Wow, okay,’” he said. “So it’s come to this point in which the RiverPark as a cultural organization has come into question.”

So as the court considers their budget, profits, and any other number of reasons, at least one vocal group in the community wants them to defund it to get rid of a drag show.

“The LGBTQ community has every right to do what they want to do,” Schoenwald said. “They also have the right to pay for their own programming.”

Another vocal group wants the county to continue its support and remove drag shows from the bureaucratic equation.

“The RiverPark is not a gay child you can kick out of your home for coming out of the closet,” Key told the Fiscal Court.

The fiscal court has until July 1 to finalize its budget.