Southeast Alaska state Fair is Proud to Host Juneau Drag at the 2023 Fair

May 2, 2023

Haines, Alaska

Hello friends – we’re sorry we haven’t reached out to everyone sooner regarding the plans for Juneau Drag at the Fair. Not only has this been a difficult process for everyone involved and required some time to think and take stock, but it also required some logistics that took time to complete. 

The Fair is keeping Juneau Drag in our lineup of headliners this year.  We have decided to move them to a 9:00 pm start time, in consideration of the concerns we heard from some parents.  However, we will not go later than that due to requests from other parents. Juneau Drag will take the Main Stage around 9:00 pm Friday, July 27. 

We’ve received hundreds of letters, visits, and calls from the community; some opposed to Juneau Drag performing at the Fair, and the majority in favor.  We took a close look at the substantive issues people raised with hosting drag performance here, and have found those concerns do not warrant us removing Juneau Drag from our line up. Drag as an art form has a long history, and like the other performance styles we host, is tailored to the audience. Drag is not lewd or risque or “adult only” unless the performers intend it to be, when in an adult only setting.  Indeed, Drag as an all-ages performance is long established world wide. Further, there is no evidence to support the idea that Drag performers are predators of children, we find the allegation of such offensive towards the performers we happily partner with and support, and we do not give such an argument any credence. 

The Fair books between 30 and 40 acts per year to our various stages, and we aim for a diversity of voices. This can mean doing our best to bring entertainers of under-represented genres to our stage, to cycling well-established acts to side stages after they have received a lot of stage time, to following up on heavily requested acts and genres.  All of our entertainers know they are performing to an all-ages setting, and that they have to tailor their performance accordingly. The Fair staff remains in control of what is on our stages at all times, and we are able to shut down any performance should we find they are not abiding by our rules. That is why we pay our entertainers post-performance. 

There has been some confusion in the community as to the type of entity the Fair is. We are a 501(c)3, private non-profit. As such, our property is privately owned by our organization. We open and maintain it free to the community – outside of our events – for a variety of uses, and it is our pleasure to do so.  However, during our events, we close the grounds and charge for people to come in.  This is not a public venue, it is a private one that people have to pay to attend. We receive property tax exemption because our property is used for the good of the community throughout the year, in so many ways beyond just our events. 

People have also said that we rely on public funds to operate. This is simply not true.  While grants from the borough are very welcome and help us maintain the grounds and facilities for all to use, they amount to less than 5% of our usual annual budget. The Fair, for the most part, operates on our own income, that is brought in by our events. Indeed, we believe that our operation is a net economic benefit to the community of Haines, by bringing visitors and their travel dollars to our community.

The Southeast Alaska State Fair is a membership based non-profit organization. That means we are governed by a board of directors voted into office by our membership, and we are answerable to our membership. Members are made up of people in the community who care enough about the Fair to pay an annual membership fee and take part in Fair governance conversations and oversight. Every year we encourage membership via outreach in the mail, online, and through our membership party, the Spring Fling. People who wish to be involved in the Fair’s governance and support the Fair at that higher level are welcome to become a member of the organization. 

Finally – the debate on the merits of drag in American culture is a big, nationwide debate.  It is an issue to be dealt with on a cultural level in our communities. The Fair is merely a venue booking an entertaining act that has been requested by many people. We do not claim a stake in this issue, nor do we carry the answer to this cultural debate. This is a conversation the community and the country need to continue to have. The Fair is merely following our mission to “enrich community by hosting celebrations of heritage, creativity, and social exchange.” We are proud to do so in a community that cares so much.