Community center left off county’s budget during drag debate

Locals think that the debate over drag at the RiverPark Center was a push for cutting funding.

OWENSBORO – Owensboro’s RiverPark Center, which came under fire earlier this year for drag shows, was left off the county budget during a county meeting.

The RiverPark Center is a performing arts center owned by Daviess County in Western Kentucky. The center started losing donations once it became known that there were drag shows being held in the Ghostlight Lounge. The shows are for people ages 21 and up, but some residents objected to drag shows being held at a location that received tax dollars.

14News, a TV station in nearby Evansville, Ind., reported that the center was excluded from the Daviess County Fiscal Court’s budget draft. As the draft was presented on Thursday, members of the public were present and debated drag shows at The GhostLight Lounge.

In Kentucky, the Fiscal Court serves the same function as a County Board in Illinois.

Judge Executive Charlie Castlen prefaced the public comment period at its first reading by saying it was made with compromises.

“We debated, we discussed, and yes, at times we were very frustrated,” Castlen said, according to 14News. “But in the spirit of cooperation, we came together and created a workable document.”

“Since there is city tax revenue going to the RiverPark to the tune of over $200,000, I think the community should have some say as to what is happening at the RiverPark,” said Michael Schoenwald, who opposes the drag shows.

According to the TV station, the county’s contribution is only $12,500.

Others spoke out in support of the center and its activities, saying they were a part of the community as well.

“We ask that you as representatives of our county value the RiverPark because we do,” said Jordan Blake Key. “Whether they have drag shows or gospel shows, Pride Night or Ted Nugent, Comedy Night or the Nutcracker.”

The court said that the drag shows weren’t the reason for cutting the center, but debate over the shows had been “divisive.”

Key told 14News he and others thought the drag shows were a big factor.

“So then the county defunds the entire RiverPark it was like, ‘Wow, okay,’” he told the station. “So it’s come to this point in which the RiverPark as a cultural organization has come into question.”

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