Kansas State University Annual Drag Show Highlights Diversity, Equity, and Community Responsibility

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K-State Annual Drag Show live performance by Tywoo (Tyler Woods) Archive photo by Emily Starkey | Collegian Media Group
K-State Annual Drag Show live performance by Tywoo (Tyler Woods) Archive photo by Emily Starkey | Collegian Media Group

For more than a decade, Kansas State University (K-State) has held a yearly drag show sponsored by the Student Governing Association, K-State Union Program Council, LGBT Resource Center, and several LGBTQ and allied student organizations. The K-State Annual Drag Show has become a highly anticipated event for the campus and surrounding community. In addition to the entertainment aspect, the show has served as an educational and advocacy opportunity to feature ongoing efforts to increase awareness of diversity and inclusion at the university.

Originating with a core group of student performance artists, the drag show troupe became known as Hot, Sticky, and Sweet. Performing first in local small bars, the group moved the show to campus and used K-State’s Union Ballroom and Forum Hall. Each year the event grew in popularity and attendance and eventually outgrew standard venues on campus. It then moved to K-State’s 1,800-seat McCain Auditorium, which it continues to fill to capacity. The cast of the K-State Annual Drag Show has remained true to its beginnings and continues to feature the Hot, Sticky, and Sweet troupe but has expanded to include a variety of diverse performers who are invited from across the U.S. The core original cast members, most of whom are now alumni of K-State, return each year to continue the tradition.

One of the hallmarks of the K-State Annual Drag Show has been to raise funds to support the university’s LGBTQ students. Over the past decade, the performers have helped to provide over $100,000 for scholarships, university excellence funds, and more. In 2018, the lead performer and host Dusty Garner, Class of 2011, established the Dusty Jo Garner Carpenter LGBT Excellence Fund through the Kansas State University Foundation. This fund focuses on assisting LGBTQ students with the costs of mental health care and the supplemental costs of health care through university services.

The 2021 Annual Drag Show will be held on February 21, 2021, and is currently in the planning phase. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, several changes have been implemented. Returning to the stage will be the original cast in the more intimate Forum Hall of the K-State Student Union. The show will be live-streamed from the venue without an audience present but will retain much of the same energy with group and individual lip sync performances as well as live vocal performances. The organizers and cast members believe that now more than ever, the show must go on.

Brandon H. Haddock, PhD, is the Student Services Coordinator for the LGBT Resource Center, Intercultural Learning and Academic Success, and Diversity and Multicultural Student Affairs at Kansas State University.