Rockford is celebrating June as Pride Month for the first time ever this year. The city has held events all month like parties and art exhibitions, and more recently, a 'Drag Queen Story Hour' at the East Branch of the Rockford Public Library.
Saturday's event was attended by families and young kids while a crowd of protestors, supporters, and law enforcement gathered outside.
Nearly a hundred people demonstrated about the library's choice to have a drag performer read stories to children. Many held rosaries, crosses or pictures of Jesus. Signs reading “Protect Our Children” were met with rainbow flags.
The storyteller, drag queen Cass Marie Downing, says she felt encouraged to give back to kids despite the protesting.
“Because I think it's such a great thing that they get to have this at an age that I didn't have that - I needed so much to know that I was okay being who I am," said Downing.
The Wisconsin-based performer said performing drag helps her share messages about being positive and accepting.
“I've been able to mentor young trans children, and even adult trans people,” said Downing, who is also transgender. “Because of being transparent with who I am as a person. I like to let people know that you're not alone.”
The city will keep local landmarks illuminated with rainbow colors for the rest of Pride Month this June.