Drag queen Gigi Monroe reads a book about a wig during Drag Storytime at the Mendenhall Valley Public Library. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)

Drag queen Gigi Monroe reads a book about a wig during Drag Storytime at the Mendenhall Valley Public Library. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)

One for the books: Drag Storytime returns

Balloons, books, bustin’ moves.

Ava Sell wanted a special garment for a special occasion.

And that’s how the 3-year-old came to be wearing a bright-blue dress while bouncing a balloon in the Mendenhall Valley Public Library ahead of Drag Storytime. Balloons left over from a Juneau Dental Society’s Give Kids A Smile event added extra flair —and the occasional startling pop —to an already colorful event.

Ava Sell, 3, enjoys balloons left over from a Juneau Dental Society event before Drag Storytime at the Mendenhall Valley Public Library. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)

Ava Sell, 3, enjoys balloons left over from a Juneau Dental Society event before Drag Storytime at the Mendenhall Valley Public Library. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)

Sage Brown, 1, enjoys balloons left over from a Juneau Dental Society event before Drag Storytime at the Mendenhall Valley Public Library. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)

Sage Brown, 1, enjoys balloons left over from a Juneau Dental Society event before Drag Storytime at the Mendenhall Valley Public Library. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)

“She wanted to wear a dress when she heard we were going to see drag queens,” said Mary Richey, Ava’s mother with a laugh, as the little one clutched balloons. “I’m so excited this event is back.”

Drag Storytime has been a regular occurrence in the capital city since 2017, according to Amelia Jenkins, youth services staff member for the library, but the event held Saturday was the first in-person Drag Storytime since the pandemic began. However, the specter of the pandemic was not fully vanished. Many wore masks inside, and the actual storytime event took place outside, where youths and their adults were seated in designated, spaced areas.

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Jenkins said turnout was smaller than usual, but “that’s fine.”

Saturday’s sunny weather and a well-attended protest held just an hour later may have factored into storytime attendance.

While there was a dust-up elsewhere in Southeast Alaska related to a similar event, there was no sign of controversy at the Juneau library.

“It’s a celebration of dressing up and sharing stories,” Jenkins said, adding Juneau’s public libraries serve the whole community.

Drag queen Gigi Monroe makes her grand entrance by walking out of the Mendenhall Valley Public Library and to the outdoors area where families waited for Drag Storytime.

Drag queen Gigi Monroe makes her grand entrance by walking out of the Mendenhall Valley Public Library and to the outdoors area where families waited for Drag Storytime.

While the public library hosted the event, it was paid for by the Friends of the Juneau Public Libraries. Jenkins said there wasn’t much cost associated with the event, but taxpayer dollars did not go toward the cookies served.

Performers and audience members both expressed gratitude for the event.

Ariana Kelley, who brought 1-year-old Aries Kelley and 3-year-old Adrienne Kelley to the event, said she never misses a drag event, and it was nice to have a family-friendly drag event to bring the children to.

Aires Kelley, 1, holds a Pride flag Saturday during Drag Storytime at the Mendenhall Valley Public Libary. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)

Aires Kelley, 1, holds a Pride flag Saturday during Drag Storytime at the Mendenhall Valley Public Libary. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)

Juneau drag queen Gigi Monroe emceed the event, lip-synced to Taylor Swift and read a story to those gathered. Drag kings Max Stout and Katassetrophy also performed silly, G-rated dances to music from “The Lion King” and “Trolls” and read short picture books.

Drag king Max Stout reads a book to families during Drag Storytime at the Mendenhall Valley Public Library.(Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)

Drag king Max Stout reads a book to families during Drag Storytime at the Mendenhall Valley Public Library.(Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)

“We love to see all the different families here today,” Monroe said near the beginning of the event. Toward the end she added, “we love that there is a family-friendly inclusive space in Juneau.”

• Contact Ben Hohenstatt at (907)308-4895 or bhohenstatt@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @BenHohenstatt.

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