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Families attend downtown library drag story hour in spite of GOP protest

Drag performer Miss Ginger Devine reads from a children's book in the Downtown Reno library.
Bert Johnson
/
KUNR
Drag performer Miss Ginger Devine reads from a children's book in the Downtown Reno library on June 20, 2024.

Republican activists have targeted drag story hour events for years. But that hasn’t stopped young children and their parents from enjoying the show.

Miss Ginger Devine was greeted with applause as she walked into the children’s nook of the Downtown Reno Library. Devine wore a broad, rainbow colored hat and striking makeup as she read from a picture book called Rooster Wore Skinny Jeans to a crowd of around 40 kids and parents.

And like any good emcee, Devine took time for a little audience participation – including a moment where everyone got to crow like a rooster.

“This is what we call immersive theater!” Devine exclaimed.

Library staff hand a written notice to Drew Ribar in front of the Downtown Reno library.
Bert Johnson
/
KUNR
Library staff present Drew Ribar (right, in blue) with written notice of his temporary suspension from library access.

The event was part of the library’s Pride Month programming. It followed an earlier Drag Story Hour on June 15, at the North Valleys Library.

In the reading room, the mood was fun and festive. But outside, a small crowd of Republicans picketed the event.

Failed candidate for Nevada Assembly Drew Ribar was with them, recording the scene with two cameras. He just lost the District 40 Republican primary to incumbent P.K. O’Neill in the June 11 election, but on Thursday, he was there to oppose the children’s event.

“You’re taking people that have a sexual agenda, and you’re targeting children with that sexual agenda,” he said.

Ribar frequently appears at library board of trustee meetings to protest programs and materials featuring LGBTQ+ people.

His talking points echo decades-old homophobic conspiracy theories that falsely accuse LGBTQ+ people of pedophilia. Even though that narrative has no basis in fact, it’s been reanimated by Republican activists in the leadup to the general election.

But this time, he couldn’t enter the library. Staff temporarily suspended his access after they say he tried to disrupt the prior story hour.

Candace Powell holds a sign supporting Drag Story Hour.
Bert Johnson
/
KUNR
Candace Powell says she's angry that Republican protestors have photographed her kids without her permission.

“Well, they opened the door and I grabbed the door to try to enter,” he explained.

Candace Powell, on the other hand, said she and her kids are big fans of Devine.

“She’s so great. I really think that her story selection is wonderful,” she said.

Powell brings her family to the library at least once a week. She said the library staff does a great job of making kids and families feel as safe as possible, in spite of the culture war raging outside.

But what she’s not a fan of are right-wing protesters who film her children as they walk into the library for Drag Story Hour.

“If somebody were lurking outside of children’s events anywhere else – outside of a school, outside of a playground – taking photos of children, I think we would all think, ‘Wow, that’s a predator,’” Powell said.

Bert is KUNR’s senior correspondent. He covers stories that resonate across Nevada and the region, with a focus on environment, political extremism and Indigenous communities.
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