By Alexandra Deryn
BRADFORD COUNTY, Pa. (WENY) – There is a controversy surrounding a scheduled drag show for children in the Valley Arts4All festival in Bradford County. While supporters do not see a problem with the program, others do.
Performer Dustin Crispell, otherwise known as the drag queen “Dusty Boxx,” has been performing at the Valley “Arts-4-All” festival for half a decade now. He said his show is filled with positive, fun messages for kids.
“It heavily has a message of anti-bullying and diversity, acceptance and equality,” he said. “So, that’s really important.”
This year, Crispell said his drag show will feature Kidz Bop songs for children. He said he wants to use music that uses appropriate language and positive messages.
“It’s really for the kids that have been picked on or that were picked last for gym class or teens that have felt like they’ve been left out,” he said.
In a Facebook post made Monday, the publisher of the Sayre Morning Times newspaper, Kelly Luvison, criticized the event. The newspaper stated that a drag show is not appropriate for a family friendly event like the Valley Arts4All festival. The post garnered mixed reactions from those in support of the show and against it. Despite the negative interactions with the post, Crispell said he has also seen an overwhelming amount of support.
“It was a biased, opinionated post on social media that created even more division in our community,” he said.
President of the Valley Arts4All committee, Kurt Priester, said the festival has gotten a lot of positive feedback since the Facebook post was released. Priester said he is happy to still have Dustin perform.
“We are going ahead as we planned,” he said. “I mean, we want to continue to bring the festival to the community. I mean, that’s the whole reason we do it.”
WENY News reached out to Luvison for a comment surrounding the controversy.
“I would simply encourage your viewers to read the relevant pieces of our Facebook page carefully and thoroughly. This would include our singular statement posted on Monday. Then, from Dustin Crispell, an equally thoughtful post thanking us for shedding light on this issue while explaining his position and viewpoint, along with information about his approach to the Arts4All event.
We were very appreciative of Dustin’s reply. His words at that time, and ours, were clear and respectful. And again, we think it’s important to read each of these Facebook elements for precisely what they say – not for the inferences or perceptions being drawn from them by some on social media.
In the face of criticism from both sides of this issue we took the position that, in our opinion, a drag show geared toward children was not appropriate fare for this particular community event. We stand by that opinion. But to anyone who drew an unintended insult from our position, or whose personal sensibilities were offended by it, we certainly regret that outcome.”
– Kelly Luvison, Publisher, The Morning Times
The Valley Arts4All festival is scheduled for May 7th and 8th at Riverfront Park in Sayre.