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Philadelphia Sets World Record for Longest Drag Story Hour

Philadelphia leaders were on a mission to attract a record number of guests to a drag event that kicked off Pride Month, but security concerns left them hesitant to promote the event they hoped he would make history.

Federal officials last month warned of terrorists who could target LGBTQ+ events. Stores, gyms and restaurants have faced bomb threats over pride products, inclusive policies or drag events. So on Friday, just a day before story time in Philadelphia, organizers finally made the event public, outlining their goal of setting a record.

“Children and children at heart will enjoy stories read by Philadelphia’s most famous queens,” the event reads.

On Saturday, they achieved their goal.

Philadelphia took home the top title for largest attendance at a drag queen storytime reading, Guinness World Records confirmed to the Washington Post.

“It was amazing to see that the community came forward on such short notice and wanted to support this effort,” said Mark Segal, publisher of Philadelphia Gay News.

The LGBTQ+ publication was given the title of organizing the event, which brought together 263 people to hear five drag queens read stories. Segal said story time was a chance to bring visibility to drag events, which some conservative politicians have sought to ban, saying such events are inappropriate for children. Lawmakers have also introduced hundreds of bills targeting transgender rights, and more than a dozen states tried last year to restrict drag shows.

“That tells me they want to put us back in the closet,” said Segal, a prominent LGBTQ+ activist who participated in the 1969 Stonewall riots following a police raid on a New York gay bar, which marked an inflection point in the gay rights movement at the time.

“Our best tool for equality is visibility,” Segal added.

First lady Jill Biden said Saturday during a stop at a Pittsburgh Pride event that legislation targeting LGBTQ+ rights serves “only one purpose: to spread hatred and fear,” the Pennsylvania Capital-Star.

In Philadelphia, as hundreds of people gathered at the city’s National Constitution Center for story time, Neil Frauenglass watched closely as a Guinness World Records official counted participants’ red tickets. Guests included allies, activists and families with young children.

Minutes passed before the official looked up at Frauenglass and nodded.

“I knew we got it,” said Frauenglass, marketing director for Visit Philadelphia, a tourism agency that sponsored the event.

The record attempt was a large-scale version of a story hour hosted by Visit Philadelphia last June in front of Independence Hall, where two drag queens read books to about 12 people.

This year, Frauenglass had a different idea.

“We thought we had to think big,” he said.

He contacted Guinness World Records and learned that there was no existing title for the most attended drag queen story hour. To set the first record, Guinness said it would need at least 250 participants, Frauenglass said.

Guinness agreed to send an arbiter to count participants at the event, which Segal and Philadelphia Gay News would organize. The final step was to invite the public to attend.

“Let’s be loud and proud,” reads the online event page, which went live Friday. He called on Philadelphians to “make history again” after the city famously signed the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.

“We also wanted to tell the world that we are a fun and inclusive city,” Segal said. “That’s what motivated me.”

Even with just 24 hours’ notice, hundreds of people registered to attend, he said.

Segal and the other attendees crowded into the National Constitution Center, where a display of rainbow balloons was set up against a wall bearing the text of the First Amendment. Rainbow striped rugs lined the floor in front of the stage where attendees could sit.

The Guinness official started counting the tickets around 9:30 a.m. Per guidelines, all guests were required to remain in the event space while the drag queens began their readings. Segal and Frauenglass waited, watching in anticipation for the 10 minutes while the official counted the tickets.

They were counting in their heads and knew it would be a close game.

As the countdown continued, Ian Morrison, a drag queen who has been performing under the name Brittany Lynn for nearly 10 years, read “Hello, Philadelphia!” », a children’s book about the tourist sites and history of the city.

Morrison and the four other drag queens who performed only realized they were reading to 263 attendees, surpassing the number needed for the record, until just before the official announcement. He said he hopes it will lead others to view the Philadelphia event as an “open and welcoming” model.

“We are the founding city,” Morrison said, adding, “And if we do this, everyone should take note.”


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