(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) -- Drag Queen Story Hour at the downtown St. Joseph Library quite possibly brought out more people to the library than had been there in years.
An overflow crowd of more than 200 parents and children showed up Tuesday night for the latest program in the library's Celebrating All of Us series. Library staff say they chose Drag Queen Story Hour to celebrate St. Joseph's LGBTQ Pride Week.
(SOT: Swindler: "We are committed to serving every member of our tax base and providing services and programs that emphasize all the ways we are different and all the ways we are the same," said Josh Swindler, the children's library director at the St. Joseph Libraries.
A long line of families arrived early to get a seat in the reading room. Some were not able to get inside as the room reached capacity.
Vivian Versace, the drag queen selected to read to the children, entered the room to roaring applause.
"I felt like it was something our community needed," said Romeo Huff-Garza, who has performed as drag queen Vivian Versace for the past eight years. "It was a beautiful thing to see and watch the community come together."
The married father of a young son, arrived wearing a conservative pink floral dress with pearls. Versace read five different books to the kids, each sharing a different message about acceptance, friendship, love and happiness.
"Without outwardly saying it, just be yourself, be whoever you want to and love yourself and support and be kind to one another.," Versace said.
There was none of the provacative dancing, touching or rolling around on the floor that some critics of Drag Queen Story Hour had feared might go on.
When it was over, those who were there and brought their children say they appreciated the message of the program.
"I think it's important to show that everyone is awesome in their own different ways and regardless of color, race, gender, religion, we're going to support them nonetheless, said Laura Sutton, a mother of three, who brought her children, ages 12, 7 and 13 months to Drag Queen Story Hour.
A 12-year-old from Atchison, Ashley, said she felt it was important to attend and liked what she heard.
"People can be yourself," she said. "They can be whatever they want. They can be gay, straight, they can be transgender or whatever they want."
With Drag Queen Story Hour now behind them, library staff say they are even more sure they made the right decision to bring the program to St. Joseph.
"It's so exciting to see so much love and support and joy for every member of our community just the way they are," Swindler said.
Drag Queen Story Hour was just one of four presentations made over the past several months in the Celebrating All of Us library program. Others featured blindness, Adult Sign Language (ALS) and Down syndrome.
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