Of all the things Manhattan residents can expect to see on a Wednesday night downtown, a Halloween-themed drag show is likely not first on the list. This past Wednesday, Manhattan Brewing Company hosted Little Apple Pride for “Night of the Living Drag” starring Kansas’ very own queen — Lil Kim Chi. The event sold out and was complete with a Halloween costume contest, locally crafted beers and bingo.
For residents of Manhattan, Little Apple Pride and events like Night of the Living Drag are about so much more than a fun-filled evening, Jonathan Mertz, co-founder of Little Apple Pride, said.
“It’s an opportunity for members of the community to come together and to be themselves,” Mertz said. “I always say part of the reason we have Pride is for the people who can’t be there yet.”
With Pride stickers, t-shirts and candy greeting patrons as they walk through the door, the warm and accepting environment of Little Apple Pride can be felt right away. Even though costumes ranged from “The Lord of the Rings” characters to Regan from “The Exorcist,” it was clear one thing participants didn’t have to fear was being judged.
“I remember what it was like when I was in the closet, and I was a student at K-State, and I would go to the Student Union the night the LGBT group met. There’s no way I was going to go to the meeting, but I just wanted to see them,” said Mertz.
Braelyn Deppen, Little Apple Pride member, said by continuing to create spaces where diversity and inclusivity in the city can be showcased, LGBTQ residents feel more supported in Manhattan.
“Not only through the events that are put on, but also just from the general standpoint of the community — it’s very easy to be myself,” Deppen said.
With Kansas State ranking as one of 40 colleges successful in creating an LGBTQ-friendly campus, along with being the only school in Kansas to receive a five-star rating for its inclusive policies, it’s important the surrounding cities also match its attitude, Brittani Frost-Shank, Manhattan Brewing Company employee, said.
“Especially being in a city like Manhattan, the commitment that Little Apple Pride puts on, creating diverse spaces like this that are welcoming, is really important for all ages,” Frost-Shank said.
Little Apple Pride hopes to host another holiday party in December, though details of the event are still in the works. Kicking off Pride early in 2023, a Pride festival will be held on Saturday, April 22, in City Park to encourage local residents to celebrate their truest selves and do what Manhattan does best: spread love.