DE PERE, Wis. (WFRV) – N.E.W Pride rolled on at the Brown County Fairgrounds despite criticism of some parts of the event.

“We’ve heard so many stories from people of all ages about how this event has changed their lives,” said N.E.W Pride Board Member Josh Kilgas.

Since 2007, the event has featured vendors, history exhibits, food, merchandise, and all-day performances. Thousands of people attend each year and organizers said it takes months of preparation to make this event possible.

“We hope that this can be a time of comfort and joy for people,” said Kilgas. “They’re able to celebrate with us.”

Not everybody is happy though with what N.E.W Pride has done with their annual event. In particular, the drag shows that take place throughout the weekend have been the target of critics.

Several dozen people from a group called Gays Against Groomers were outside the event with signs criticizing the drag show. The representatives from the group who spoke with Local Five News emphasized that they aren’t against events like this from happening and support the right of people to assemble. Their criticism is they don’t think these events are appropriate for children to attend because of what they call inherent sexual undertones.

“It’s not a place for kids to be in general, kids shouldn’t even be at pride,” said Rocky Rodriguez who is the Wisconsin chapter president of Gays Against Groomers. “Honestly if you want to teach your kid about being inclusive and tolerant, just teach them about being kind to everybody.”

Several police officers and security guards were on hand to make sure everybody stayed safe.

“We just need to let kids grow up and be kids, let them figure this out on their own,” said Rodriguez. “There’s no need for any intervention from anybody except the parents.”

At the beginning of the month, state representative John Macco sent out a statement expressing a similar sentiment.

“As a staunch supporter of the First Amendment, I fully support the rights of this event’s organizers to gather and perform,” he said in the statement. “However, steps must be taken to protect children from exposure to inappropriate content. I urge that the entirety of this 2-day event be age-restricted, with a mandatory ID check for entry.” 

“Drag shows are traditionally a form of adult entertainment with heavy sexual undertones. Like an R-rated movie, these performances are no place for children. Placing an age restriction on this event is simply applying the same guidelines and regulations that casinos, X- and R-rated films, and other forms of mature entertainment abide by. Taking this reasonable action will ensure that our community can uphold our shared value of freedom and individual expression, while also protecting the well-being of our youngest citizens.”

Event organizers made their Friday night lineup age-restricted to only those over the age of 21. They said on Saturday they filtered the content of their performances to make it appropriate for all in attendance. Organizers placed no age restrictions on the event on Saturday.

“We work really hard to make sure it’s appropriate for all ages and I’m confident that it will remain so,” said Kilgas. “There’s a lot of misinformation about what is happening at our events. Drag has gotten a lot of bad attention.”

A separate group of about 45 people spent about an hour praying outside the event on Saturday.

“God loves all people but he’s especially concerned about children because of their vulnerability, a lot of people act in ignorance because they don’t know God’s word,” said Randy Bohn when asked why the group was there.

Kilgas said they’re used to people protesting the event. He invites critics of the event to have a constructive community conversation with himself and other organizers.