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Family-Friendly Indiana Arts Festival Hosts Drag Show Even After Sponsors Drop Out

people walking around fair grounds
Image CreditHHM TV/YouTube

The Fort Wayne, Indiana Three Rivers Festival will host its third annual drag performance Monday night.


An increasing majority of Americans say a person’s sex is determined from birth, but this hasn’t stopped the left from promoting transgenderism — even when it tanks their business and harms the very people it’s supposed to help. In an attempt to be “inclusive,” the Three Rivers Festival in Fort Wayne, Indiana, will host its third annual drag performance tonight.

This year’s show was initially advertised without an age restriction, but later it was changed to 18+ with an admission fee of $5. Previous shows were open to all ages. 

The Three Rivers Festival began in 1969 to promote business and celebrate the city’s heritage. The festival gets its name from the three rivers that meet in Fort Wayne. It has since grown to be the second-largest summer festival in Indiana, with almost half a million visitors each year. A drag show was added to the festival in 2021.

According to polling from the American Principles Project last year, a majority of Indiana voters oppose the gender ideology takeover of schools and society. Almost 65 percent of likely Indiana voters support legislation banning males from competing in girls sports in K-12 schools.

Peter Scaer, a Lutheran pastor from Fort Wayne, said the festival should celebrate good things instead of promoting ugliness and mockery.

“They’re pushing an agenda which is breaking down all of the barriers, or all the goodness of what it means to be a man and a woman, and it’s very confusing for our children.” Scaer said, “It sets a bad example for adults — especially for our community — to sponsor this.”

The inclusion of a drag show influenced at least one sponsor’s decision to pull funding from the festival. Bill Bean, the principal of NAI Hanning & Bean, said in a statement to WANE 15 that he withdrew sponsorship last year after investing over $600,000 in the festival.

Bean told 21Alive News the company withdrew its support because the board parted ways with festival director Jack Hammer and politicized the festival.

“I had always thought of the Festival as an event that avoided political and divisive issues, and my conclusion was that the board was trying to insert their personal social agenda onto the festival,” Bean said in a statement to 21Alive News. “I felt this was wrong not because of the event itself but using the festival that way. I would have felt the same way if they wanted to have a MAGA event.”

Bean did not reply to requests for comment.

Another sponsor, Ruoff Home Mortgage, pulled funding from the festival this year, but the company did not respond to interview requests.

The festival’s 62 current sponsors include the City of Fort Wayne, the Allen County Board of Commissioners, and the Greater Fort Wayne Inc. Metro Chamber Alliance.

John Nichter, the president of the Three Rivers Festival Board, did not respond to multiple interview requests, but he previously told 21Alive News that the drag show is held in an area where people will not accidentally see it.

“You have to go into our venue. It’s not in an open area that you’re going to accidentally see, or your family is going to see,” he said. “You would have to bring your family into that area to see.”

Nichter stood by the board’s decision to include the festival despite the backlash. “We want to be inclusive of all types of people,” he told 21Alive News.

Scaer said having a drag show advertised at a family-friendly festival normalizes deviancy.

“It’s not like watching ‘Mrs. Doubtfire.’ This is not just ‘oh, men dressing up as women, and it’s kind of funny,’” he said. “It’s hyper-sexualized, and our society is already pushing that everywhere.”

Scaer is a founding member of Shepherds United, an ecumenical group of pastors, priests, and ministers gathered for the sake of life, natural marriage, and religious liberty.

“There’s so much we should be promoting that’s natural and good, and that’s beautiful,” Scaer said. “And this isn’t it.”

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