It’s the second Saturday of the month at 4 p.m. in Renton, which means that parents can get a beer while their kids learn the ABCs from a local drag queen.
“It’s important to get these kids out and interacting,” said Sylvia O’Stayformore of Drag Queen Story Hour, a popular event across the country where drag performers read stories to children.
Sylvia is a drag queen who’s been performing in the greater Seattle area for 25 years. While many Drag Queen Story Hour events take place in libraries, Sylvia does hers on the outside patio of The Brewmaster’s Taproom off Benson Road South, a family-friendly (and dog-friendly) establishment that offers beer, baked goods, and even an apothecary.
Sylvia had been doing a variety of gigs and events throughout Western Washington for years, putting on fundraisers, her variety show “Bacon Strip,” and her Rainbow Bingo nights. Sylvia even owned her own bar in Georgetown before the pandemic forced it to close, along with several other LGBTQ+ establishments throughout Seattle.
When she was approached to do Drag Queen Storytime at the Taproom in the summer of 2020, she hadn’t done anything like it before.
“They wanted to do two different events — the story time and Rainbow Bingo — so I offered both events on one night since Fridays and Saturdays are my only available times,” Sylvia said.
On the second Saturday of July, there are several small children in their tiny lawn chairs and sitting on their parents’ laps, all gathered around as Sylvia reads them a variety of children’s books like “If You Give A Dog A Donut” and “C Is For Camping.”
The kids are fully engaged in the stories and one boy even yells out that he had read one of the books before. Without missing a beat, Sylvia says, “You have? Well don’t tell me how it ends.” The boy sits down and says, “OK, I won’t.”
The atmosphere is fun and Sylvia’s report with the kids undoubtedly makes Story Time a hit because it sometimes has a bigger crowd than Rainbow Bingo.
“I dress like a crazy aunt with colorful outfits and not as big-wigged,” Sylvia said. “It’s low-key and I want to be approachable. I get little thank-you notes from the kids. It’s a fun experience.”
When Storytime is over and Sylvia is putting her books away, she receives some gifts from the kids. One boy offers her a cracker, a girl gives her a clementine orange, and Sylvia is even given a hand-made card covered in hearts.
“When we were kids growing up, we had colorful clowns and I guess I’m like a modern clown,” Sylvia said.
With recent stories of members of the Proud Boys, a far-right extremist group, disrupting Drag Queen Story Hours in California and Nevada, Sylvia says that she hasn’t had any incidences so far.
“The Proud Boys are always going to be there, that kind of element is always going to be there,” Sylvia said. “You just can’t be afraid of it. I don’t want to sit at home doing nothing.”
Having grown up in a Mormon home in Utah before moving to Washington, Sylvia is no stranger to anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment or bigotry, but she hopes that the next generation will be more open-minded, especially if children are given books that aren’t just the bible.
“It’s important to talk and it’s important for them to be willing to listen. It’s interesting to see conservatism going on, even here,” Sylvia said. “It’s so sad that we’ve gotten to the point where it’s so polarized. We can’t all be the same.”