Letta The Queen performs Sunday at the Together We Rise Pride event in Windham. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

WINDHAM — Letta The Queen decided the show must go on and she needed to show up.

The Portland-based drag performer lip-synced to songs about freedom and diversity in front of hundreds of people at the first-ever Windham & Raymond Pride celebration on Sunday, despite some community pushback and a threatening encounter that led organizers to cancel a multi-performer drag show scheduled for the event.

But after organizers canceled that show last week, Letta called and said she still wanted to perform.

“I found it really important to show up and be visible and help lift up not only the Windham and Raymond queer community, but also this organization, which has gone through a lot of challenges to get to where they are today,” said Letta on Sunday. “I wanted to help get out the message that love is louder than hate.”

The Windham & Raymond Pride festival – called Together We Rise – drew hundreds of people, including families and children, to the town office complex and surrounding areas beginning around 11 a.m. Sunday. People of all ages were dressed in rainbow-colored clothes, while upbeat dance music played on loudspeakers and food trucks and craft vendors sold their wares. No protests or disturbances were reported during the four-hour event, said Windham police Chief Kevin Schofield.

Melody Gosselin, 3, walks in circles while aunt Sarah Nute, left, and mother Molly Gosselin wave streamers during Sunday’s Pride event in Windham. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

The Windham & Raymond Pride’s board had decided in the middle of last week to cancel the scheduled drag performance, which was to include Letta and several other drag queens, after one of the performers said she was approached by a man she didn’t know in a bar in Portland and was told not to attend the event because her life would be in danger. The performer, Chartreuse Money, told the Press Herald that the encounter shook her and was a key reason she and other drag queens dropped out of the Together We Rise event. Organizers also said some “closed-mindedness” about the event on social media figured into the decision.


Sometime after the decision was announced last Thursday, Letta the Queen called Kate Turpen, board president of Windham & Raymond Pride, and said she still wanted to perform. Letta said she thought it would be safer for one drag queen to go on instead of four.

“Letta called me and said being resilient and showing up is what Pride is all about,” Turpen said Sunday.

Windham police had identified the man who approached Money, but Scofield said the man didn’t appear to have information about a specific threat against the drag performers or the event. Still, several Windham officers, including Scofield, were visible throughout the event Sunday.

Windham police Sgt. Ernie MacVane poses with rainbow-festooned Phiona, a black Lab service dog, and her owner Tori Penney of Windham, at the Together We Rise Pride event Sunday. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Expecting protesters, organizers set up an area for them cordoned off by orange cones, just to one side of where food trucks and other outdoor activities were happening behind town hall. Scofield said his department had not received any specific information from groups planning to protest.

People attending the event said they had heard about the threat made against a drag performer and other negative comments, and wanted to show support for the cause and the event.

Bradley Youngs brought his 7-year-old son Marshall to the event partly because he knows people on the organizing group’s board, and because he’s happy to see a family-friendly event in Windham. Marshall was looking forward to seeing his grandparents and trying his hand at throwing a toy axe at a target.


“We’re here to support this event and more events like this in town, there aren’t many in Windham,” said Youngs, of Windham.

Robert King and Nicholas Tucker, both of Portland, said they decided to come Sunday because they usually attend the Portland Pride events but won’t be able to this year.

“We’re here to support the LGBTQ community but especially to be here for this first one in Windham,” said King, a psychiatrist.

Tucker said the two would have probably come to the Windham event even if a threat hadn’t been made against a drag performer, but the threat definitely was added incentive.

Singer Viva the Sensation walks into the crowd while performing at Sunday’s Pride celebration in Windham. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Jackie Sawyer, of Raymond, was at the festival with her 9-year-old twin sons, Jack and Ethan. Wearing a “Love is Love” T-shirt she bought for the occasion, Sawyer said she wanted to support the event’s mission and found some of the criticism of the event on social media disturbing.

“Some of the comments were just ridiculous. Some people called it grooming,” said Sawyer. “There’s nothing harmful going on here. Love is love – who cares?”


Letta the Queen’s drag show happened shortly after noon inside the gym on the property. With brilliant blonde hair and wearing a sparkly one-piece outfit that had all the colors of the rainbow, Letta lip-synced to three songs with lyrics about freedom and equality. Each one had the crowd clapping along. Intermittent shouts of “we love you, Letta!” could be heard. One song was called “Drag Queens Save the World.”

After the performance, several people lined up to take photos with Letta.

Just before the drag performance, Alexis Handelman, the children’s room coordinator at the Windham Public Library, led a story and song time. One of the songs, sung to the tune of “Wheels on the Bus,” had lyrics that included “the hips on the drag queen go swish, swish, swish, all through the town.”

Alexis Handelman, of Windham Public Library, reads to kids and parents at Sunday’s Pride event. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

The cancellation of the multi-performer drag show for the Windham & Raymond Pride event is just the latest example of the negative response some communities have seen as Pride events in Maine and elsewhere have grown in popularity. Protesters showed up at an inaugural Pride event in Gorham last year, and residents in Unity circulated a petition trying to ban Pride decorations on town property.

A record amount of legislation attacking LGBTQ+ rights has advanced in recent years, according to the American Civil Liberties Union, and the FBI and U.S. Department of Homeland Security issued a warning of potential violence last month in advance of Pride Month activities. Sunday’s event came about after a contentious debate in the school district last year about whether books with queer storylines and characters should be allowed in classrooms.

Turpen, the Windham & Raymond Pride board president, said seeing hundreds of people show up Sunday and have fun was “validation” of the event, despite the challenges faced in putting it on.

“Every kid that I see, that’s a kid that’s feeling welcome here that might not have felt that way 20 minutes ago,” Turpen said. “I don’t even care how many people show up today. What we have, I’m so happy with.”

Staff writer Rachel Ohm contributed to this story. 

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