'We support everybody': Mill Woods Seniors Association hosts drag show

Pride Month may be over, but on July 21 nearly 200 seniors came together to watch a local drag show.

Nearly 200 seniors attend event

Drag performer Jennie Talia dances to entertain guests at the Mill Woods Seniors Association on Thursday. (Anna Wdowczyk/CBC)

Pride Month may be over, but on Thursday nearly 200 seniors were treated to a special drag show.

Hosted by the Mill Woods Seniors Association, the event brought dinner and entertainment to community members aged 55 or older.  

"My experience with seniors is they're a lot more open-minded than we give them credit for," Charlene Desrochers, a consultant for Riverbend retirement homes who attended the event, told CBC Edmonton's Radio Active

"They have been there, done that. And at this point in time in their lives, most seniors accept people for who they are."

Dubbed as the Sizzling Summer Drag Show, the social night planned for Pride Month was postponed when a performer fell sick with COVID-19. 

But when the event returned, a large crowd of seniors were ready to cheer on drag queens and kings from the Imperial Sovereign Court of the Wild Rose: a non-profit that performs to support Edmonton charities.

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"They [seniors] really appreciate where people are at and they've learned that it's about respect and dignity for all people because they want that for themselves," added Desrochers.

Drag queen Christy Heely couldn't perform for the senior centre since 2019 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Heely said many seniors had inquired about when the drag show would finally return during the three-year hiatus.

"We made that kind of impression and they haven't forgotten," said Heely.

Drag performers Tugs Cuchina, Ladonna Cree, Christy Heely and Indecisive strike a pose during an intermission at the Sizzling Summer Drag Show hosted by the Mill Woods Seniors Association on Thursday. (Anna Wdowczyk/CBC)

Heely said she felt welcomed after being greeted with rainbow-coloured decorations.

She said this year's show was similar to the one she put on the last time she visited the Mill Woods Seniors Association, except this year, she was asked to talk about the history of Edmonton LGBTQ+ pride between songs.

"It's heart-warming to have so many seniors interested in our community," Heely said. "And let's be honest, some of them probably are part of our community. Some of them maybe never got that chance to come out."

'We support everybody'

For senior member Hannelore "Honey" Fritz, watching live drag shows feels just like going to any other comedy show.

"We're all a little bit older than we used to be, so it's a way of getting out to be with people," Fritz said. 

"I think that's something we can all afford to do at this time with a beautiful dinner, nice people around. What more do we want?"

Sharon Swyrd, another senior guest, has been an ally for years; she has a brother, cousin and many close friends who are part of the LGBTQ+ community. 

Attendees at the drag show were eager to capture photos of the participants. (Anna Wdowczyk/CBC)

Swyrd said she goes out to drag shows with friends "to show the LGBTQ community that we love them and we support everybody… I love the costumes, the humour and the honesty."

When talking about what it's like to join a senior group, Swyrd said she's often asked whether she gets bored playing childhood games like bingo all day. 

"We're not the seniors that our parents or grandparents were," she added.

Events like the Sizzling Summer Drag Show are important because they show seniors are more open-minded than some people think, said Swyrd.

"I know a lot of my friends had to fight hard and come out," she said. "So we paved the way and now we're supporting the next generation."


Anna Wdowczyk

CBC Edmonton News Scholar

Anna Wdowczyk is a journalist with CBC Edmonton. She can be reached at anna.wdowczyk@cbc.ca.