editor’s note: This story has been updated
“We were expecting a large turn out,” Washoe County Director of Libraries Jeff Scott told therenogaypage. “… We weren’t anticipating quite this large of a crowd.”
Library officials said originally about 600 people turned out for the first Drag Queen Story Time in Washoe County, but updated that figure to 826, on Saturday July 20 at the Sparks Branch of the Library. Local Drag Queens Aspen Meadows and Ginger Devine read four books to children that were attentive, engaged and appreciative of the reading program at the library.
Parents and children began lining up more than an hour before the library doors even opened to attend this special story time event that has been planned for over a year by the Library Youth Service and Special Events staff. Even though there had been controversy, the support for the event was appreciated by the hard working library staff.
When asked if the Sparks library had even seen as large of a turn out for an event it hosted, Connie Dickman, Sparks Library Branch Manager said. “No, I don’t believe we have ever had this big of a turn out.”
A large line of people formed inside as well as continued outside in preparation of the Community Room being opened for the event. The room holds 108 people for fire code compliance, those inside were told. Library staff worked hard to rotate children and parents inside and out of the community room so more people could participate. Some of those who tried to attend simply could not be accommodated because of the size of the crowd.
“Thank you so much for doing this event,” one parent told library staff as she and her three kids, all under 8, were leaving. Most all the comments were positive. Even those members of the Nevada Family Alliance were not disruptive while inside the library.
“When are you doing this again?” another mother with two children in tow asked.
“This is really great!” Beate Weinhert, The library’s director of Youth Programs and Special Events, said. “What a great day for the story time.” She said she was even over whelmed by the support from the community for Drag Queen Story Time.
Local elected officials, State Senator Julia Ratti (D-Sparks), Sparks Councilman Ed Lawson (Ward 2) and Reno City Councilman Devon Reese (at-large) were in attendance to support the library and its efforts to promote literacy and reading to children.
Local media was well represented at the Sparks library by the Reno Gazette-Journal, KOH news, The Nevada Independent, the Reno News and Review, KOLO, KRNV/KRXI, KUNR. All media were given strict guidelines to follow for safety reasons. Reno Gazette Journal photographer Jason Bean was told “no” several times but ignored the restrictions placed on news media. Media did not have access to the event until it was over and had been informed of that in advance.
The library staff was well prepared for anything and had plans in place if something might come up. Nothing did.
The Nevada Family Alliance did show up but had no children with them and were allowed access to the library, but not to the community room where the program was being held. Only an accompanied parent with a child was allowed in the room. One tried to bring a large sign into the building saying “Parental Rights” but was barred from doing so and had to leave it outside.
The well-known lone member of the Nevada Salt and Light Brigade, a known hate group, was also present with his amplified sound. He was extremely confrontational and surrounded by 50-75 people who supported the event. At one point a counter protester had a bullhorn with a siren going to drown out the protestor. The lone security person from the library, Tristan, kept things in order and controlled. Those supporting the event were loud and confrontational with the protestor. Being confrontational is the lone protestors method to invoke and incite.
Several people said they came to the event because of what Sparks Mayor Ron Smith had said earlier in the week. They expressed their support of the program at the library and couldn’t believe what the Mayor had said. Mayor Smith had told the Reno Gazette-Journal he “thought it was ridiculous for transgender people to be reading to children.”