When folks think of “drag culture” they might not think of Wheeling, WV. But, some amazing upcoming events featuring some of the coolest and most influential drag artists in the country are about to commence.

Roxby Development, a local economic development company led by father and son Jeff and Jeffery Morris, is hosting a one-of-a-kind drag show right here in The Friendly City.

On Friday, August 27 Roxby Development in collaboration with Funeral Parlour PGH will be hosting an impressive line-up of entertainers including performances by Aiden Zhane and Maddelynn Hatter from VH1’s Rupaul’s Drag Race and Shudder’s The Boulet Brothers’ Dragula.

  • Aiden Zhane
    Aiden Zhane is a drag performer who gained notoriety after competing on RuPaul's Drag Race.

READ MORE: Drag Culture is About Family

This weekend is also Wheeling’s 6th annual Ohio Valley Pride festival at the Heritage Port Downtown which coincides with the drag show.

Showrunner Chris Santilli shares their excitement for the Historic McLure Drag Show.

“It’s going to be amazing – I wish I would’ve had something like this growing up. When I moved to DC – I chose to be visible. I chose to be out. Had I seen someone like me as a kid, I probably would’ve stayed in the valley.”

Within two weeks, the cast list was created and in a “stars align” moment, performers from Columbus, Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Morgantown agreed to take on the Friendly City for this star studded event. “We don’t want the entertainers to just show up but we want them to show out,” Santilli said about the exciting mix of burlesque and drag performers.

Taylor Smith, General Manager of the McLure Hotel talks about the importance of hosting events at the McLure that enhance what’s happening around the city. “We want to be the epicenter of everything cool happening in Wheeling – we want people to think of us first.” Smith left Wheeling for many years before returning in 2017. “As a young African American man, I went to Pittsburgh for years and came back here. Since then, I’ve found Wheeling to be even more accepting than many of these bigger cities – Wheeling is ready for change.” Smith has worked in hospitality for 12 years under the Hilton brand before joining the Roxby team in July.

  • Leia Way Lestat
    Based out of nearby Pittsburgh, PA, Leia Way Lestat is the reigning 2019 Miss PTown.

While this event is sure to be fun, the event organizers are also concerned with making sure the event is safe for all of its attendees. Event organizers are taking the rise in local COVID-19 cases seriously and have coordinated free rapid antigen testing onsite before the show. This test is included in the $10 cover charge. Folks can also purchase two-day tickets at the door for $99, which includes a DJ Night on Saturday and dancing from 9 p.m. – 2 a.m. A negative antigen test is required to attend both events.

The show will be held in the historic McLure Ballroom. Doors open at 8 p.m. and showtime begins at 9 p.m. Refreshments will be available in the ballroom throughout the night. Entertainers will perform music, comedy, and a series of sickening dance moves on the hotel’s newly installed catwalk.

Organizer Chris Santilli reminds us of the importance of affirming celebrations like this.

“I’ve been trying to bring more drag to the city for a long time and I feel like this is something a lot of folks can look to as a big moment for Wheeling. We’re going to be heard, and we’re going to be fabulous.”

Rosemary Ketchum is a member of the Wheeling City Council representing Ward 3. Rosemary is associate director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness Greater Wheeling Drop-in Center and on the boards of several organizations including the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy. She has served as a guest on MSNBC and has been profiled by several publications including Time Magazine, CBS and CNN for her work in community organizing and politics.

Leave a Reply