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Since 2015, die-hard RuPaul’s Drag Race fans have descended upon the Los Angeles Convention Center to spend a spring weekend with the stars of their favorite television show, and their enthusiasm for the art of drag is exactly what the legendary artist at the center of it all hopes to expand across a wide range of demographics for the event’s upcoming third edition.
For the 2017 iteration of RuPaul’s DragCon — an annual, drag-centric gathering set to feature around 200 vendors, exhibitor booths, celebrity panel discussions, and more — instead of catering solely to the industry’s adult crowd, EW can exclusively reveal that this year’s conference will expand its focus to include more family-oriented activities for children of all ages.
The inaugural Kids Zone section will debut as part of DragCon 2017, marking an inclusive, interactive section RuPaul tells EW was spurred by his desire to foster a sense of community amid the tumultuous political climate in the U.S.
“What’s brilliant about DragCon is all the young people [who attend] — I’m talking 9, 10, 11, 12, 13 years old,” the Emmy winner says. “They come with their parents and they get to meet all these other kids from around the world that they know online… You can’t beat meeting your tribe in person!”
The 56-year-old explains that he began noticing a large number of families visiting DragCon in years past, and he sees this forum — which DragCon says attracted 22,500 attendees who spent roughly $2.3 million on the convention floor in 2016 — as an opportunity to nurture their growing minds with love and acceptance.
“[In the beginning] we thought, well, we’ll get some drag queens and gay guys, but it’s clear that parents know that this is a safe space for their kids to understand diversity,” he notes. “And I mean diversity across the board — not just gay or straight or drag queens — I mean across the board. Smart parents are bringing their kids, and that’s why we have a Kids Zone.”
Ru isn’t doing it all by himself, though: He’s enlisted the help of acclaimed author Michelle Tea, a 2017 convention partner who previously founded Drag Queen Story Hour, a program which sees men in drag reading books to children at local bookstores as a means to inspire tolerance and acceptance at an early age. Kids can also have their faces painted and work on arts and crafts.
To date, DragCon 2017 is also set to host appearances by scores of Drag Race superstars (Alaska 5000, Bob the Drag Queen, Alyssa Edwards, Raja, Katya), entertainment figures (James St. James, Mean Girls star Daniel Franzese, Sheryl Lee Ralph, Orange Is the New Black‘s Lori Petty), panel presentations (Teen Vogue Presents: What Is Drag in Trump’s America?), a live version of season 9’s Untucked after-show), and a keynote speech by RuPaul himself.
RuPaul’s DragCon runs between April 29-30 at the Los Angeles Convention Center. Tickets — including full weekend passes — are available now here (kids are admitted free of charge). For a full list of speakers and other guests, check out DragCon’s official website.