W.Va. VFD cancels planned 'drag queen bingo night' fundraiser due to threats
The Bruceton-Brandonville department has been looking to try different kinds of fundraisers and "thought this would be a fun one," said President Dylan Bowers
The Dominion Post
BRUCETON MILLS, W.Va. — When the folks planning a fundraiser for Bruceton-Brandonville Volunteer Fire Department sat down to brainstorm, they hoped to come up with something a bit different this year.
And so they did. But the idea proved to be a bit too different for some.
The proposed drag queen bingo night to raise money for the department was canceled after "community and political pressures."
"Due to community & political pressures as well as for the safety of our department, guests, and queens, we have been forced to cancel Drag Queen Bingo, " the department wrote on its official Facebook page. "Refunds will be made in the next few days. Thank you to all who continue to support us. We look forward to seeing you all at [one ] of our upcoming events."
The majority of the department's money comes from community donations, President of the VFD Dylan Bowers said.
"We've been trying to branch out in different fundraisers to kind of appeal to everybody in the community. So we just thought this would be a fun one. You know, some people have requested it. So we thought we'd go with it, " he said. "But once we put it out there, it was apparent that there was some disapprovement and disappointment of the community for it."
Bowers said they did have people threaten to protest the event, potentially putting guests, members, and /or the performers in harm's way.
"We really don't want that, " Bowers said. "We remain apolitical. We don't take any sides but we do stand firmly against discrimination. You know, bigotry, hatred and violence, like that, we can't have any of that."
As a department, it's their job to protect the whole community, Bowers said.
"We will give our 110 % on every single call, no matter who it is, because we're here to protect the community, " Bowers said. "And we love everybody in the community."
Comments were limited and are no longer widely visible on both the original post for the event and the follow-up post made on April 3.
That post reads, " The Bruceton Brandonville Volunteer Fire Department is proud to serve a diverse community that is supportive and generous to our volunteer department. We appreciate that our community is passionate in their individual beliefs, and we are respectful of each individual. We understand that each event may not be appealing to everyone in our community ; however, we are committed to providing a safe and open-minded environment for each event held at the BBVFD. Our organization strives to be open to all that may cross our path regardless of race, gender, religion, social status, and more. We will continue to offer a variety of events for our community including dinners, activities for children, bingos of various types, gun /cash bashes, flea /farm markets, & much more."
Not being able to hold the event is a letdown, Bowers said.
"We're disappointed that we couldn't have the event. But you know, we serve the community and we want to do what's best for the community, " he said. "So, you know, comes down to it if the community doesn't want us to do it then ... it sucks but it ..."
The drag queen bingo is not the first such event in the region to be canceled after public backlash. In November 2019, the Morgantown Public Library was forced to halt a planned drag queen storytime after threats were made against performers.
BBVFD will host Good Neighbor Day again this year and hopes to hold some kind of big fall bash fundraiser. There are also barbecue chicken dinners planned and the department is open to ideas.
Times are tough for everyone with inflation and fire departments are no different, Bowers said. The firefighters are volunteers but there are still bills, truck repairs, materials used on scene, and equipment that gets damaged.
"We thank the community for the support that they give us. And we hope that they continue to support our efforts, because without them, nothing we do could be possible, " Bowers said.
According to the department's Facebook page, those who would like to make fundraiser suggestions may do so via private message or via email at BBVFDAux @gmail.com.
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