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Dragging their heels? Soldotna citizens dissatisfied with slow city progress on park rules after drag twerking show

Stephanie Queen, city manager for Soldotna, described on Wednesday the actions she is taking to possibly revise the terms and conditions for renting park facilities. A drag queen performance in front of children at Soldotna Creek Park caused an uproar in this Kenai Peninsula community on June 17, and it’s still the talk of this Kenai community.

During the Soldotna City Council meeting, Queen said she met with Parks Director Andrew Carmichael and Assistant Director Joel Todd on Aug. 15, and would soon meet with the Parks and Recreation Board, which would have a large role in creating any new boundaries that groups renting the stage would need to stay within.

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Queen said would bring back to city council any recommendations for how to better protect children from obscene live shows at public parks. She said the process will take time to ensure the final standards meet any legal tests and she set an expectation for a draft agreement “later this fall.”

It appeared to some in the audience that the process was being dragged out to save the campaign for House by one of the council members: Justin Ruffridge, who ended up being the subject of much of the testimony from the public over the 20-minute public testimony period of the meeting.

That foot-dragging by the city was not satisfying for members of the community who spoke up during the 20 minutes they were given for testimony.

Tom Bearup former mayor of Soldotna, said the drag queen who danced suggestively before children at the park during the Pride Festival in June had not apologized to the community, as some have claimed, but had actually apologized to the local LGBTQ community for the backlash that the performance had drawn. Bearup said he had been personally abused by members of the LGBT community for his stance against the drag queen show for kids at the Soldotna Creek Park.

Worth watching: Testimony from Soldotna residents

Isaac Kolesar, a citizen who has spoken publicly about the inappropriateness of the performance, asked the city council if it would be OK for a man to put a sock over his penis, cover his anus, have his wife wear pasties, and go down to the public park to perform for the kids. He was making a point, which was that all reasonable people would consider that obscene.

He said that in Mayor Paul Whitney’s own email, the mayor acknowledged that the performance was inappropriate for an open venue. “You believe it’s inappropriate. You work for the people. Yet you do nothing,” Kolesar challenged Mayor Paul Whitney.

Kolesar said had even more harsh words for Councilman Ruffridge, as did most who testified.

“You spoke to my wife and I for almost a month about this issue, during which time and through two city meetings you did nothing. You never took a public stance and did nothing,” Kolesar said.

“You said you heard ‘the people and it was 50/50.’ No it was not. It was 50-1. You heard the LGBT community say they want their rights. They got ’em. What you missed was us asking for verbiage covering public obscenities, which has nothing to do with any group. Even if the LGBT community thinks it’s an attack on them, it’s not,” he said.

“If you want to count the first meeting and say that there were two opposing sides and it was 50-50 you can. But the city council presented only a small portion of the emails publicly. Now that we have the emails we know that people that want change out number the others approximately 1 to 50,” Kolesar said, explaining that he had copies of all the emails the council received.

Kolesar explained that he is not against the LGBT community, and even LGBT citizens don’t support public obscenities targeting children.

“If you did your job and checked your emails on the matter you’d know this,” he said.

Kolesar also scolded the council for not keeping the matter as a priority on the agenda.

“You have/had the ability to bring it onto the agenda during that time and even until now — and you never did. You constantly assured us that you were appalled by what took place and agreed that ordinances or definitions should be looked at to prevent public obscenities. You did nothing,” he said. “You told my wife and I it was not on the agenda and it ended up it was [on the agenda.] I feel you were misleading us.

The event coordinators of the drag queen show now support Ruffridge in his run for Alaska House, Kolesar said, adding that it makes sense that Ruffridge won’t take a stand for fear of losing votes.

Kolesar’s notes to the council continued, but his three minutes were up. What he was not able to say was, “We are not like you. We have convictions that we are willing to stand up for. We have been drug through the dirt, slandered against, threatened with physical harm, I could go on. Unlike you, we are convicted and actually care enough to stand up for what’s right. I hope you’re taking notes on what conviction and standing up for what you believe in looks like.”

Josh Sclizo, who owns a business in Soldotna and is a father of six children, also spoke about the need to protect children and families from sexually charge content in public spaces.

“Whether it’s lewd dance performances or internet porn, it’s part of the grooming process that provides pedophiles with a field of vulnerable victims. Our community has enough problems with the sexual exploitation of children without inviting more,” he said.

Another Soldotna man explained that he grew up in gang culture, and understood well how people can be desensitized to things like violence from a young age. He said sexualized performances for children were a way to desensitize them.

Mayor Whitney stopped the man just as he was making a veiled threat that if the council did not act, there were people who would act. He was escorted out by police.

Nearly all of those providing testimony had a pointed message for Councilman Ruffridge, who is running for House against Rep. Ron Gillham, a known conservative in the district. They told Ruffridge if he thought he was ready for higher office, then he’d better learn how to take a stand.

The testimony of concerned parents is captured on the Must Read Alaska YouTube channel at this link:

Wednesday was the second time the public has testified to the council about the performance, and the citizens were frustrated that the council and the city manager have not acted in any substantive way. In July, dozens of Soldotna residents showed up at the city council chambers to voice their discontent with the city for allowing drag queens to perform for children — children who were then encouraged to shove dollars at the performers who twerked and mimicked nudity in what was clearly adult material.

Some who testified in July in favor of the drag queen performances for children blamed Must Read Alaska for creating the controversy. Threats against business owners who have spoken out against the burlesque children’s event have been ongoing, according to documentation seen by Must Read Alaska.


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Suzanne Downing
Suzanne Downing
Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.


  1. This is the kind of entertainment that Chris Constant and Forrest Dunbar live for, and want your kids to engage in.

    • What is it about the rear ends of men that homosexual men have such an obsession over?
      Constant? Dunbar? Can you shed some light, please.

      • I had a bi-sexual lady explain that her having sex with another woman was like having sex with herself. I would suppose that it’s the same for gay men, it being a sort of self pleasure? Perhaps that’s where the expression “Lucky Dog” came from?

  2. The city council doesn’t care what the people think, or want.

    It’s literally just that simple.

    • Masked, in reality, this council and its actions are precisely what the people think and want. That fact was proven by the last election results. For the majority that failed or refused to vote, their nonparticipation was in itself a vote for the current council. To repeat moreover, the people get what they ask for.

      • The great majority of Dem/GOP party members are just that, party members. It’s their social club, comfort zone, and safe space. They will vote the party ticket simply to feel that they’re “family”.
        They don’t think, nor reason issues out. They just cast their “I’m one of us” vote.
        The majority of non-voters are the marginalized, homeless, un-chirched, unemployed or under employed, who couldn’t care less about the issues of those whom they feel had kicked them to the curb. The rest are mentally ill, drug addicts, convicts, alcoholics, sociopaths, psychopaths, and/or narcissists.

      • Can’t argue a word. Wish I could, but can’t.

        Exhibit B. The probable return of Nurse Rachett (Giessel) to Senate.

  3. These drag shows should be renamed “strip shows”. As odd as it is, you can have a drag show without nudity. There are drag performers who wear over the top dresses and wigs for performances. The group should call it what it was, a strip show or peep show. Super inappropriate for a park.

  4. Sounds like the Anchorage assembly. Bunch of losers pushing their beliefs on people who don’t want it. Anything to get elected should have voters thinking about to power and money once their voted in.

    • Mark, sadly, if the beliefs they are “pushing” are what gets them elected, then they are doing precisely the right thing. Most people are now in rebellion to God. Our public schools deny His hand in creation… as if everything in the cosmos simply sprung from nothing. See 2Chronicles7:14.

  5. Enacting restrictions on the First Amendment requires as much consideration and diligence as if the discussion was about the 2nd Amendment. Bravo to the City Manager who wants to folow a process and protocol to ensure personal rights are preserved. Stuff like this is why City Managers are frequently changed by reactive voters

    • Easy fix would be an adults only event, with restrictions on location so it couldn’t be accidentally viewed by non-attendees.
      However, with “Drag Queen Story Hour” becoming more and more acceptable by the general public, for children to attend, It’s likely that the issue will soon become moot. The “camel’s nose in the tent” thing.
      Fighting against it as if it is a pedo issue is the wrong tactic though. It’s actually a communist tactic to separate our children from parental control, giving them over to the nanny state.
      The socialists/communists are winning ground by collectively controlling the dialog. Our opposition is fragmented. We need a very loud, single public voice, which would necessitate organizing our side of the dialog. You can’t win a shouting match if you’re not shouting louder an longer than your opposition.

    • Frank Rast: This isn’t complicated Frank. If you perform lewd behavior at a park in front of children, gay or straight or whatever, you should be kicked out and lose rights to hold events at the park. Dragging this out is what is causing the controversy, obviously. Doesn’t mean that everyone that is LGBTQ+ can’t be allowed in the park. Just means if you are an organizer or an organized group that allowed lewd behavior before, then you don’t get to book another event. The fact that you think this is complicated is not a good look and the only reason Justin and you think this requires “much consideration” is because you want to look more compassionate (virtue signal) for pandering to LGBTQ+, when in reality the only people you are pandering to is each other. There are plenty of LGBT’s that don’t want this kind of attention at all and it actually makes their lives harder and many have common sense when it comes to inappropriate behavior and defintely don’t want to be lumped into this, but if they lean hard left and love to hate and stir things up and see the attention and destructive power they can have with their wild viceral energy, then they love this kind of polarizing attention that allows them to be a lightning rod of controversy and attention while reveling in how they can get “loving” support for being “trailblazers” and lead people like you around by the nose with your full consent because your ego is fully invested into this virtue signaling that is always pushed further and further to make sure you have what it takes to never say uncle and have a stance that is anything like those awful LGBTQ+ hating Republicans.

  6. Only pedophiles, and those who approve of them, would think any of this public indecency would be okay. We need to bring back REASONABLE public decency laws!

  7. > The event coordinators of the drag queen show now support Ruffridge in his run for Alaska House, Kolesar said, adding that it makes sense that Ruffridge won’t take a stand for fear of losing votes.

    Ruffridge is a fake Republican, everyone who lives in the area knows it, and yet he looks to be headed to victory in November anyway. Don’t be shocked when he becomes yet another RINO who helps hand the House majority to the Democrats.

    • Exactly James.Don’t trust that man at all.Same with his bud Bjorkman who said the vax gave him virility.RINOS TO THE CORE.

  8. Soldotna city councilwoman Linda Hutchings on the drag show at Soldotna Creek Park, quoted in the Peninsula Clarion 7/14/22. She said she’s seen worse from cheerleaders at our local ballgames. I haven’t noticed any cheerleaders lifting their skirts to reveal a thong and twerking in front of families.

    “I think I’ve seen worse on halftime for the Super Bowl, at cheerleaders at the local ballgames and at some of the dance studios,” said council member Linda Farnsworth-Hutchings. “ … To be real honest with you, I was really impressed with the flips because that takes a lot of strength to do that.”

  9. This group should have been arrested for lewd and indecent exposure, probably something else given the age of the children present. they all should have been jailed…..

  10. Nothing personal.
    I realize you are just reporting the truth.
    I could do without the picture.

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