Story Hour

Reed Wahington

Reader Stephanie Stuart during Drag Queen Story Hour January 18, 2020 Photo Credit: Myndee Washington
Reader Stephanie Stuart at Drag Queen Story Hour January 18, 2020 Photo Credit: Paul Bradford

The event that shook the city, a Children’s story hour, once a month at the New Port Richey Library draws people in from all over the county. Only at the library since November, the story hour, entitled Drag Queen Story Hour, has been going on since December of 2018. The story hour, so named because of reader and drag queen, Stephanie Stuart, began at a local bookstore and, in the past year, has gained a large following of both supporters and dissenters, before being invited to the library and taking it all with them. 

The event, which aims to increase literacy among children, has passed out an estimated “620” books since the events beginning according to event organizer, Myndee Washington. On top of handing out books, at the end of every event children are encouraged to get a library card so they may check out books. The original (and head) reader focuses on reading stories that teach children to accept themselves and others (reading books like; I Like Myself  by Karen Beaumont), in the formative years of childhood, these lessons can be vital to producing people who are polite and accepting . 

With a format that stays fairly precise from month to month, it is fairly easy for children to become antiquated to the event and remain calm and comfortable throughout. With a bubble machine guarding the entry children are met with fun from the beginning of the event. In betwixt the stories children are invited to dance and sing to the music that is played, as well as, delight in the complimentary snacks and drinks. 

The most interesting part of the event is not, however, the event itself but the happenings in and around the event. A group (varying in size from about 5 to about 30) of protesters come to the library stoop to yell profanities, claiming that the event promotes sin and pedophilia. The group, which has frequented the event since it’s early days, is lead by Victor McClesky a self-proclaimed “Saint of our Lord” and head pastor at the local King James Version (KJV) Baptist Church.

These protests, though mostly consist of sign holding and the reciting of KJV scripture well above the legal noise levels, also consists of homophobic rhetoric claiming, in no uncertain terms, that all homosexuals are pedophiles and should be kept away from children. McClesky alongside “Street-Preacher”, Allan Siders, yell at adults and even children entering the library, whether for the event or not, that they are going to hell for supporting this event, even going as far to tell a 16 year old that he should be “hit by a car” before the end of the month. Multiple times throughout the event history arrests have been made of protesters who got too aggressive.

Fearing for the safety of the children attending the event police officers are called to watch the event every month as well as a private security team that specializes in descelation tactics particularly so when related to LGBT+ events. Last month security being so much of a concern that the event attendees were escorted out of the building through a faculty exit. The next story hour will happen on February 15th and more likely than not the protesters will return but with the backing of the library staff Drag Queen Story hour will remain.

Stephanie Stuart at Winter Drag Queen Story Hour December 21, 2019 (Also Photographed is Alana Luck) Photo Credit: Robyn Luck