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Drag brunches coming to Crave in Rochester

A last-minute event in December following "Homecoming Queen" opening has sparked a series of brunch performances beginning Feb. 13.

Jayda Clyne 01.JPG
Jayda Clyne, drag persona of Dan Zeller, performs before a crowd at the Rochester Art Center Dec. 4, 2021 as part of the opening of "Homecoming Queen" featuring works by Southeast Minnesota native and drag performer Ethan Mundt who performs as Utica Queen.
John Molseed / Post Bulletin
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ROCHESTER — Drag brunches are on the menu at Crave American Kitchen & Sushi Bar the next few months. The series of performances begins Sunday, Feb. 13 and will be held monthly, said Kyle Burgess, assistant general manager at Crave.

The brunches were scheduled following the success of a last-minute drag brunch in Dec. 5 following the opening of the “Homecoming Queen" exhibit at the Rochester Art Center.

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“The turnout was great considering we didn’t have much time to plan,” Burgess said. “We usually like to plan events at least seven days in advance.”

Dan Zeller, a member of drag troupe and nonprofit group Rochester Girls Inc., will help coordinate performances. Zeller also performs in drag as Jayda Cline.

About 300 people attended two drag brunch performances Dec. 5 at Crave The day before, more than 500 people attended the “Homecoming Queen.” The show features the works and outfits created by Southeast Minnesota native Ethan Mundt, who competed as his drag persona, "Utica Queen," in “RuPaul’s Drag Race.” (Attendees were required to show proof of a COVID-19 vaccination or a recent negative test for the virus.) Utica Queen attended the event and also performed. So did Jayda Cline.

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Utica Queen 03.JPG
Utica Queen, who competed on on “RuPaul’s Drag Race.” performs at the Rochester Art Center Dec. 4, 2021. Ethan Mundt, a Southeast Minnesota native, competed on the show as his drag persona, "Utica Queen." A show of Mundt's work is on display at the Rochester Art Center.
John Molseed / Post Bulletin

Drag performance is a popular art used as self-expression and celebration of LGBT pride. Zeller said the art opening event and other recent LGBT-focused events have helped create more interest and attendance for such events.

“The whole weekend was amazing,” Zeller said. “I think it’s opened a lot of minds and hearts and pointed things in the right direction.”

The December brunch, a success with little lead time, appears to be a catalyst in what was a chicken and egg situation for LGBT-centered events in Rochester.

“There’s been this perceived sense that Rochester is a conservative town without queer-centric events going on,” said Julie Winter, founder and board member of Rochester Pride. It’s an understandable assumption, Winter added.

“Rochester doesn’t really have a history of that,” Winter said.

The Crave location in Minneapolis regularly holds drag brunches. Holding drag brunches here was something being explored for Rochester but managers were uncertain how it would be received. Many of the people interested in drag brunch performances go out of town to attend them. He heard from some of those people who said they regretted missing the Rochester event.

“It’s a different demographic around here,” Burgess said, adding the events in Rochester will likely take more promotion than the Minneapolis event to help boost attendance.

Zeller said he’s glad a large business is taking a step to embrace an LGBT-oriented event by agreeing to hold the brunches.

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Bryan Chase, who established “Beers for Queers” event Tuesdays at Little Thistle Brewing Co., said more businesses are holding and supporting LGBT-centered events. Fiddlehead Coffee on Fourth Street Southeast hosts another weekly LGBT-oriented event called Thursgays featuring cocktails and nonalcoholic dessert drinks.

“I think there’s definitely a more open and welcoming atmosphere in Rochester than there was in the past,” Chase said.

People tell him they appreciate the weekly Beers for Queers, but want to see something “bigger,” he added.

“My response is, make it happen,” Chase said. “But I do think we should have an open LGBT bar in Rochester.”

Chase is stepping away from organizing Beers for Queers and handing planning and organizing to Chelsey Classon and Angelica Reincke.

Winter agreed a bar would add a cohesiveness for some of the LGBT community. A lack of cohesion might have contributed to a lack of queer events, Winter said.

“There were so few opportunities for people to be out in the community, they ended up in these little silos,” Winter said.

However, a bar would also exclude people who don’t drink and people too young to be in bars, Winter added. Seeing more businesses, such as coffee shops, embrace LGBT-oriented events has helped create welcoming spaces for a broader crowd, Winter said.

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“Welcoming places have cropped up,” Winter said.

If you go

What: Drag Brunch at Crave

Where: Crave American Kitchen & Sushi Bar, 220 Broadway Ave. S.

When: Feb. 13, March 20, April 24.

More info: Two shows each day with seatings at 9 a.m. and 11 a.m.

John Molseed joined the Post Bulletin in 2018. He covers arts, culture, entertainment, nature and other fun stories he's surprised he gets paid to cover. When he's not writing articles about Southeast Minnesota artists and musicians, he's either picking banjo, brewing beer, biking or looking for other hobbies that begin with the letter "b." Readers can reach John at 507-285-7713 or jmolseed@postbulletin.com.
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