If you don’t happen to know the backstory to the Sugarplum Ball, in 2015 city council unanimously supported a new rainbow crossing to be painted at Lawrence Avenue and Pandosy Street, a decision that gained backlash from a few locals. In an online Castanet forum where all of Kelowna’s local crank NIMBY’s hang out, one community member referred to Mayor Colin Basran as “Mayor Sugarplum” for supporting the installation of the crosswalk. The comment ended up having the opposite effect. “I actually found it kind of funny and I kind of liked it,” Basran said at the time. Recognizing the opportunity to increase support for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community, Basran said the Kelowna Pride Society and the Okanagan Young Professionals Collective approached him with the idea of hosting a Sugarplum Ball, and in 2016 the biggest queer event for “straight people” launched, making international headlines and generating more than three million web impressions.
This year’s Sugarplum Ball moves to the downtown library on Ellis Street – it was at the RCA for the three previous years, a venue change that takes place after Don Nettleton, CEO of the Okanagan Regional Library penned a transphobic memo in mid September seeking to remove Drag Queen Storytime from the ORL, calling it “controversial” and “potentially divisive.” Drag Queen Storytime features local drag queens reading stories to young children during their storytime hour, an event that occurs every few months set up by the library that “helps children develop empathy, learn about gender diversity and difference and tap into their own creativity,” as stated on the ORL website.
Nettleton’s memo that can be read in full here (see page 32) drew the ire from local drag queen and storytime participant Freida Whales, who calls the language in the memo outdated. Whales was interviewed on CBC’s Daybreak South shortly after the memo was released. “It looks like it was written in the 1990s. Some of the language in there was just really inexcusable for today’s date,” said Whales. “My agenda is to read stories to kids, just have a great time making anyone happy and entertaining anybody.” Whales says there were about 160 people people who attended the event and that most of the feedback received has been positive (another Drag Queen Storytime event is scheduled for November 16th).
For the Ball’s 4th Annual, organizers are setting up an enchanted forest inside the walls of the library on Ellis Street. And as mentioned, the ball is not solely for the LBGTQ community, and attendees are welcome to wear what they want — from jeans and t-shirts to costumes.
Tickets are $39 and can be purchased here for the November 23rd event that begins at 8pm.