2015 was a record-breaking year for SC Pride. More than 35,000 people attended, per festival estimates, hundreds of which capped the night with an afterparty at the Music Farm. It was a thumping and intoxicating bash kept raging by the queens of RuPaul’s Drag Race. They strutted across the stage, lipsynching the party even closer to a cathartic frenzy.
The stars of the drag queen-centered reality show RuPaul’s Drag Race return this week for another romp as part of the Battle of the Seasons 2016 Extravaganza Tour. But the Soda City connection to the traveling road revue might have never happened without the organizers of SC Pride and its president, Jeff March.
“Every entertainer from the show is surprised at our crowd here in South Carolina, especially the families they see in the audience,” March says of Pride.
What: RuPaul’s Drag Race Battle of the Seasons 2016 Extravaganza Tour
Where: Music Farm, 1022 Senate St.
When: Tuesday, May 17, 9 p.m.
For the past five years, March and his team have booked entertainers from RuPaul’s Drag Race to perform at the annual LGBTQ celebration. Brian Trapp, better known as Phoenix, is one of those former contestants that’s kept coming back to Columbia, though not on the current tour, and is now one of the entertainment coordinators with SC Pride. Phoenix has fond memories of Columbia.
“I was standing on the stage, hosting [SC Pride 2014], and this adorable little girl, probably 4 years old caught my eye,” Phoenix says. “She was all smiles and really just having the best time watching the drag show. I pulled her up on the stage, in front of this huge crowd, and spoke with her. At that moment seeing this young child, filled with love and happiness, at such a young age, gave and gives me so much hope for the future of our world.”
Phoenix says he loves doing more localized events like SC Pride and the afterparty that he hosted at the Music Farm. While the venue is in line with the size of other Drag Race tour stops, Columbia is one of the least populated towns graced by RuPaul’s queens.
“I think the sponsorship of Music Farm for the [SC Pride afterparty] paved the idea for bringing the Battle of the Seasons show to Columbia,” March says.
The presence of a venue like Columbia’s Music Farm can’t be overstated when it comes to bringing events with the cultural gravitas of RuPaul’s Drag Race. Opened in 2014, it’s a sister club to the famed Charleston venue that recently celebrated its 25th anniversary, giving the Columbia location a longstanding reputation to lean on.
“We’ve always prided ourselves on being a place that anyone could feel comfortable at,” says Thomas Glasgow, Music Farm Columbia’s marketing director. “We’ve never been a one-genre room. We’ve always said that the Music Farm is a blank canvas, that the artists come in and get to paint their picture on it.”
“We wanted to bring that vibe and mentality to Columbia of being a room where we can bring tons of different types of people together and feel comfortable in that room when their particular deal is going on,” Glasgow adds. “That’s showing through and part of the reason RuPaul’s Drag Race feels accepted like they got a home in the Music Farm in Columbia.”
If it wasn’t for March and SC Pride and the openness of the Music Farm, RuPaul’s Drag Race might have passed over Columbia.
“Any visibility or event featuring the LGBT community that is all-inclusive of everyone is a huge asset to the movement as a whole,” March says. “We are gaining more understanding and acceptance of the LGBT community, and in return we welcome everyone to come to any and all of our events.”