When it comes to Easter, there are a number of things that come to mind. Jesus Christ. The cross. Bunnies. Chicks. Eggs. Candy. Drag races.
If you’re in Atlanta, yes – drag races. One of Atlanta’s biggest Easter traditions starts up again this Sunday, April 8, when The Armorettes hold their annual Easter Drag Race at Burkhart’s. For those of you who don’t know, The Armorettes are one of Atlanta’s most notable drag performance groups. The group, originally founded in 1979, is known not only for their campy entertainment, but also for their fundraising prowess, primarily in support of HIV/AIDS-related organizations.
These days, The Armorettes perform mainly at Burkhart’s, where this year’s Easter Drag Races will take place, as well as monthly at the Heretic. This year, the event will be preceded by an Easter Bonnet Runway Competition hosted by MISTER, where The Armorettes and the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence will serve as judges.
I could tell you more about the Easter Drag Races myself, but wouldn’t it be more enlightening coming from a member of the Armorettes? Well, I caught up with Armorettes member Ally “Queered Al” Yankadic, who shed a little light on the history of the Drag Races, as well as what you can expect this year.
Elijah: So for our readers, what exactly are the Drag Races?
Ally: That’s a good question. How can I describe this? Basically, it’s a big annual event that we like to put on that’s something more than just a show. [For us,] it’s a chance for more crowd interaction and participation. It’s a series of games ranging from blindfolded musical chairs to Easter egg hunts on a drag queen’s body. It could be anything. There are games with prizes and the chance to come out and have a good time and, you know, enjoy an afternoon of fun on a holiday where, in a number of cases, people don’t go home to see their families. It’s not traditionally a gay holiday. It’s a chance to get out and have a good time.
E: As for the Drag Races themselves, what does that entail?
A: Yes. Basically, it’s an all-day event. Registration starts at 2:00 pm, and at 4:00 pm the event actually starts, which is a series of games. In addition, the one game that’s always there is the Drag Race itself, in which contestants have to run from one end of the area to the other, and as they run to each side, kind of like in a sprint mode, they have to get into various stages of drag. So they’ll put on a dress. They’ll put on a bra and boobs. They’ll put on lipstick, and then they’ll put on heels, and after they put on the heels, they’re all set, and they’ll have to walk like a lady back across the finish line.
E: The Armorettes are also performing at the Drag Races, correct?
A: Once all that’s done, which usually ends around 7:00 pm or so – there’s about three hours outside, then from 7:00 to 8:00, there’ll be an intermission show of a hunk underwear auction, and David and Brushstrokes are sponsoring that. Meanwhile, we’ll be resting for a bit. At 8:00, or around that time, we will start with our normal show back inside and putting on the full drag show for everyone’s enjoyment.
There’s also some numbers while we’re outside. There’ll be a few numbers outside in the parking lot. Mostly, it’s a good mix of fun and games.
E: How long have the races been going on?
A: The Armorettes have been around since 1979, and nobody’s sure exactly when the first drag races were. Some people think it was actually in 1979, and some people think it was slightly later. But probably for at least 30 years.
It started as a result of, back then, there was a lot more disenfranchisement of the gay community, as far as being able to participate in the holidays. Easter holiday was one. It…just seemed like a good excuse to go out and drink with your friends.
E: Who does this event benefit?A: Well, everything actually goes to The Armorettes’ PWA fund, which is People Living With AIDS. At the end of every year, at our anniversary show, we give away the funds that were raised throughout the year from all of our shows. Last year, the beneficiaries were Heartsong Southeast, AID Gwinnett and MISTER, and we gave away almost $30,000 to those organizations. We just raise money throughout the year and give it away at the end of the year. With certain shows, with certain fundraisers, it goes to specific charities, but in this case, at the end of the year, it’ll go into the main pot and be distributed to those charities that are deemed beneficiaries for the 2012 spot.
The Armorettes’ Easter Drag Races are on Sunday, April 8, at Burkhart’s (1492 Piedmont Avenue NE). The event begins at 4:00 pm. Registration opens at 2:00 pm. MISTER’s Easter Bonnet Runway Competition is on Saturday, April 7, at MISTER’s headquarters (60 11th Street NE). The event begins at 5:00 pm. Followed by the P.A.L.S. Fun-raiser Men in Undies sponsored by David Magazine, Brushstrokes and Gayborhood in association with The Armorettes and The Rainbow Trout.