A plan to expand the business of a Calgary petting zoo and family attraction with adult-friendly entertainment has been met with hate and threats.
Cobb’s Adventure Park, organized events to showcase their park beyond just kangaroos and wanted to include some kings and queens. Some are taking to social media to express their animosity over the drag event, calling it “sick” and “disgusting.”
Owner Mike Sheppard said it’s an unacceptable level of hate.
“We’ve had numerous people say we are sickos and writing, ‘Is this part of mental awareness month?’ In one of the worst, we had one person say: ‘Society is screwed and the only people who should go to that show should bring guns,” Sheppard said.
“I can’t even spit out the words, it makes me sick. If you can’t be tolerant, we don’t want your business.”
He said they’ve notified police and are adding security to the Saturday night event.
“It makes me worried,” he said. “We had to cancel some performers from different shows so we can afford to have security.”
Drag king performer Nolan Neptune said he doesn’t understand why some people target their community with such hostility.
“Seeing something sparkly dancing on stage — there’s nothing threatening about that.
“It confuses me. People who are saying those things have never been to a show,” Neptune said. “To see the impact drag can have on young people, the way it opens up acceptance for the queer community and all walks of life.”
Shane Onyou has been a drag king artist for years and said he’s never seen anything like this.
“The fear from the side of society that thinks we are freaks is more prevalent and more emboldened, and I don’t understand it,” Onyou said.
But he won’t bow down to the pressure to stop performing.
“I had to go dark because of all the hate I was getting, but I refuse to hide: that’s what I did for so long,” Onyou said. “I am proud to be out. The amount of people telling me they’re happy I’m visible, that’s rewarding.”
Angelina Starchild is a drag queen performer who makes regular appearances, including a Sunday brunch show at Twisted Element. She said she thrives on the support and works hard to counter the animosity towards her.
“You have to kill them with kindness and spread love and joy and you can’t let something like this stop you because love its better than hate,” Starchild said.
Syd Sherman has worked at Cobb’s for almost a decade. They said there are a lot of staff who are part of the LGBTQ+ community and they are grateful to have employers support them.
“I know they love and care about me as a person and will always stand up, because they know it’s the right thing to do,” Sherman said.
“We won’t give into this hate,” Sheppard said.