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Wichita State's independent, student-run news source

The Sunflower

Wichita State's independent, student-run news source

The Sunflower

Monster Mash event returns for a second year despite past controversy

Drag performers and audience members alike dressed in their Halloween best, crowding into WAVE for live music, a drag show, art market and a bouncy house. 

The second Monster Mash featured three local music artists Yae, The Cavves, and Hunter Gromala & the Disorders, as well as several drag performances hosted by Effi Darling and LeStar Yamaya. It also included an art market of over 20 local artists spread throughout the venue and spilling out onto the gravel area outside.

Guests were encouraged to wear costumes to the free event and participate in a costume contest. 

Minnie Van Driver, one of the show’s drag performers, and a musician who sold CDs of their debut album at the event, participated in Monster Mash last year.

“I feel like there’s going to be a bigger turnout (this year), and I feel like all around it’s going to be just bigger and better, more slay, more fun,” they said.  

Emerson Ross, the entertainment director of Wichita Pride, described Monster Mash as “a big celebration of art, specifically queer art, with a Halloween theme.”

Last year, Monster Mash was marked by controversy over its drag performances being open to all ages, and allegations of Kansas government affiliation, ultimately forcing it to move from its planned location of the Towne West mall to the Chainlink Gallery.

“The art form of drag is being dragged, for lack of a better term, through the mud, by people who just simply don’t understand art in general,” Ross said.

This year, the event changed locationto WAVE, a venue in downtown Wichita. Hunter Gromala’s role in the event was also new this year. 

Gromala, who uses they/them pronouns, said they faced their own controversy over a performance in July.

“I was supposed to perform at the Sedgwick County Fair in Cheney,” they said. “When they announced my event, some locals in Cheney went digging and found that I’m nonbinary and use they/them pronouns and decided that a trans person was not allowed to perform and took the comment section and blew it up and made it a whole big thing.”

Part of the criticism, Gromala said, was due to people seeing images from past performances. 

“Those events were at a bar or were 21 or over,” they said. “I’m a professional first and an artist. I know how to be PG-13, PG, etc. I’m a hired professional. I obviously know how to adjust myself and my act to all ages,” they said.

Eventually, the dispute over their inclusion in the county fair was resolved.

“Sedgwick County had to take down the events and stop the Facebook comments,” they said. “(The criticism) didn’t stop. So they basically had to have a lawyer come out and say like ‘No, you’re allowed to perform. We don’t care how you identify because you’re just here to perform.’”

The contention over Gromala drew the attention of WAVE. Gromala said the venue reached out to them to express support and invite them to perform there, so a performance date was set for October.

This happened to coincide with Lear Heath Studio’s Monster Mash, so Gromala said they decided to incorporate the events. 

“We were just like ‘Okay, let’s pair our quote unquote controversies and make a really badass event for people that are just here for art,’” Gromala said. “And that’s kind of the goal, just create a safe space that everyone can enjoy art and be themselves.”

Gromala said it is important that there are drag events open to younger audiences. 

“I feel like it’s really important to have all ages events because it shows kids what they can be when they grow up,” they said. “Suicide is so prevalent in young LGBTQ teens and children because, I feel like, they feel so alone or they feel like there is no other option or there is no one like them or all the feeling that they have are very isolating.”

Suicide among LGBTQ youth is four times higher than average, according to The Trevor Project.

“These events show them like ‘Hey, like even if you don’t understand everything right now, there’s people around you that are willing to help you get there or just answer questions and provide you a safe and beautiful environment to grow up in,” Gromala said.

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About the Contributors
Ainsley Smyth
Ainsley Smyth, Reporter
Ainsley Smyth is a second-year reporter for The Sunflower. Smyth is a sophomore communications major with an emphasis in journalism and media productions. Her dream job is to travel back in time 30 years and then be a reporter for Rolling Stone. Smyth uses she/her pronouns.
Brianna Cook
Brianna Cook, Photographer
Brianna Cook is a second-year photographer for The Sunflower. She is a sophomore biology major from Wichita, Kansas. When not taking photos, Cook enjoys leather working and after graduation, hopes to work for the park service. Cook uses she/her pronouns.

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