Drag queen pageant switches venues after concerns about compliance with Florida laws
ORLANDO, Fla. - The organizer of a Central Florida drag queen pageant says he felt he was forced to find another venue after staff expressed concerns about whether its content complied with state laws.
Jason DeShazo dubs his Lakeland-based Rose Dynasty Foundation and its annual Miss Rose Dynasty Pageant fundraiser as the "Disney Channel" of drag.
"There's no nudity. There's no sexualization. There's no sexual content. Everything is good, clean, family fun," he told FOX 35 News.
The foundation works with LGBTQ youth and their families, in addition to raising thousands of dollars a year for all types of charities.
This year's pageant was scheduled to happen Saturday at the Dr. Phillips Center for Performing Arts in Downtown Orlando – like last year's event.
But despite being booked months in advance, DeShazo says the center's staff gave him an ultimatum about three weeks ago: prohibit anyone 17 and younger from attending or postpone the event while they get clarity from the state.
"We're a family-friendly organization. We're not going to do that. We have kids and families that count on this event every year. They wait for this event," he said.
DeShazo says he had no other choice but to find another venue and ultimately found a new temporary home at the Wyndham Orlando Resort in Kissimmee, about 40 minutes south of the original location.
"I have a feeling we've lost a lot of people … There's a lot of money that's been involved in losing, and there's been a lot of costs that we didn't expect to have to do for this," DeShazo said.
A spokesperson with the Dr. Phillips Center provided FOX 35 News with the following statement, explaining its position:
Back in February, the state filed to revoke the liquor license of Orlando Philharmonic's Plaza Live venue for allowing children to attend a drag queen Christmas show that the state described as "sexually explicit."
DeShazo says this has had a ripple effect.
"It's kind of put everybody in this industry and kind of between a rock and a hard place of like, 'What do we do?'" he said. "I understand why Dr. Phillips thought and felt the way they did, of course. We kind of see what's been going on. I just wish it would have been done a little different."
A spokesperson with the center told FOX 35 News, as of Friday, it still hadn't received the clarity it sought from several state agencies. The Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation also hasn't responded to a request for comment from FOX 35 News.
Tickets for Saturday's 6 p.m. event are still on sale.