As sponsors drop out, Boise Pride Festival drops Drag Kids event over safety concerns - East Idaho News

As sponsors drop out, Boise Pride Festival drops Drag Kids event over safety concerns

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BOISE (Idaho Statesman) — Boise Pride Festival organizers have dropped a Drag Kids event from this weekend’s annual celebration after at least three sponsors announced they were withdrawing support.

Zions Bank withdrew its sponsorship on Wednesday, and on Thursday both Idaho Power and the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare followed suit.

In a statement Thursday afternoon, Pride organizers said the decision was made because of safety concerns for the children and their parents.

“The kids who were going to perform have the enthusiastic support of their community and support and consent of their parents,” organizers said in the statement. “We support the kids 1000% and their choice to be themselves, stand their truth and express themselves. They are brave, beautiful and deserve their chance to be in the spotlight, and we want to give that to them at a later date.”

Riley Burrows, co-producer and host of the Drag Kids program, which had been on the schedule for Sunday, said the decision was extremely difficult to make, but security and safety are priorities.

Zions Bank, Idaho Power and the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare no longer appear as sponsors on the Boise Pride Festival website. Zions Bank and the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare issued statements regarding the decision, as did Idaho Power, which wrote, “Due to programming changes that occurred after our sponsorship and concerns for the safety of our employees and volunteers, we have withdrawn our participation in the Boise Pride event.”

Zions Bank withdrew the same day that new Idaho Republican Party Chair Dorothy Moon released a statement claiming the companies involved were financing the “sexualization of our children,” the Idaho Statesman previously reported. The Idaho GOP, which for years has fought efforts to add the words “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to state anti-discrimination law, put out another statement Thursday denouncing Pride’s sponsoring companies.

The director of Health and Welfare, Dave Jeppesen, sent a letter on Thursday to Donald Williamson, Boise Pride Festival director, announcing the department’s decision to withdraw.

“DHW’s sponsorship of Boise Pride 2022 has led to some confusion about whether DHW endorses specific event activities involving minors during this event,” Jeppesen said in the letter. “To avoid any confusion regarding DHW’s support of such activities, DHW is withdrawing both of its Orange Level sponsorships and Project Filter will no longer be supporting a booth at the event this weekend.”

Project Filter is a tobacco prevention and cessation program.

Health and Welfare’s move came despite the department’s long history of participating in the Boise Pride Festival, according to Greg Stahl, a communications officer.

Williamson said Wednesday on Twitter that people opposed to the Drag Kids event were “twisting it into something it is not.”

Boise Mayor Lauren McLean issued a statement about the controversy on Thursday applauding Pride organizers for taking action “to protect everyone who will join in the celebration this weekend.” She also said that “the inflammatory rhetoric of the past few days has put a spotlight on the critical need for our community to have a conversation about standing together in times like these to encourage, embrace and support the diversity and dignity of all people.”

The three-day Boise Pride Festival remains packed with performances and events, including the biggest parade in its history Sunday morning and a larger amount of vendors than it’s ever had. It kicks off Friday night at 6 p.m. at Cecil Andrus Park with a performance from Boise’s Rocci Johnson Band.