Denver drag queen Yvie Oddly will perform at the Rad Drag Drive-In for Aurora Pride this year. Oddly was the winner of the 11th season of RuPaul’s Drag Race. Photo provided by Aurora Pride

AURORA | Before Amazon and online shopping, and long before there was coronavirus and a fear of hanging out at indoor places, there was the mall.

True mallrats, especially those who grew up in the 90s, will remember more than ear piercings at Claire’s and the sound of teenage boy laughter undoubtedly coming from Spencer’s. There was Sam Good, catching up on celebrity gossip in the magazine section at B. Dalton Booksellers, and, of course, stopping for an Orange Julius.

Those memories will be very much alive Nov. 14 at Aurora Pride’s Drive-In Drag Show when famous Denverite Yvie Oddly, a winner of RuPaul’s Drag Race, and other area queens, including Evelyn Evermoore take the stage. The performers are celebrating everything from 90s mall culture, and the fashion and music that came along with it.

While the event is all things mall, the closest guests will get to a massive department store or food court is the parking lot of the Town Center mall in Aurora. This year’s show is socially distanced.

“We’ve been trying to plan some things for a while and every time we think something is good to move forward there’s some new regulation from the county or the state,” said Aurora Pride Executive Director Zander Oklar.

Previously Aurora Pride took over the Aurora Reservoir for a big high plains beach bash. That wasn’t an option this year.

Many large scale events this year have been quashed, but a drive-in show got the approval from the Tri-County Health Department, which has been guiding businesses and helping plan safe events for the entirety of the pandemic.

“The only risk-free way of COVID prevention is never leaving your house,” said Kathy Staats, who works in the prevention and policy division of the department and was involved in organizing the drive-in event. “But we’re reducing risk as much as possible.”

That means helping event organizers think of little things, like how to manage performers and limit people from coming into contact with each other if they need to find a bathroom.

A business recovery team at Tri-County has been providing a number of resources to local businesses, organizations and event planners during the pandemic, something local health leaders say is an important aspect to public health.

Events like Aurora Pride bolster mental health, a critical part of this pandemic.

“Even just being in a parking lot, to know that you’re close in heart and being part of a community… it really speaks to the different ways we can be building health for the community as a whole,” Staats said.

Oklar said the pandemic can already be difficult for communities that already feel isolated.

A poll by Morning Consult and The Trevor Project, an LGBTQ youth suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization, from earlier this month found that nearly a quarter of  LGBTQ youth who responded couldn’t access mental health care because of the pandemic. Nearly three-fourths of respondents said they were experiencing increased loneliness and more than half said they experienced symptoms of anxiety.

About one-third of those respondents said they felt like they couldn’t be themselves at home, a place they were spending a lot more time.

Statistics like that are why Staats and Oklar see the need to continue on with Aurora Pride festivities this year, even if it looks much different.

“During isolation it’s important to bring together and celebrate our community,” Oklar said. “This is still going to be a party and we’re going to do it from the comfort of our own cars.”

A lot of thought went into preserving the intimacy and feeling of community people get from a drag show.

“We’re definitely trying to get the queens interacting with everyone,” Oklar said. “We’re going to do our best to make it feel intimate even though it’s a drive-in event.”

 

If you go:

The event is sponsored in part by Sentinel Colorado. Gates open at 5 p.m. on Nov. 14, the show starts at 6 p.m. Ticketing is per car, general admission and VIP tickets are both available, $40-$60 per car. Guests are invited to bring a picnic, non-alcoholic beverages, hand sanitizer, a mask and their best mallrat get up.  Find tickets at www.aurorapride.com