Cross-dressing for a cause


Queens from around Vermont came together for an annual drag event, one of light-up wigs, nipple stickers and hours of live entertainment.

The 20th Drag Ball, organized by Bob Bolyard, or Amber LeMay as he is known in drag, was held at Higher Ground Feb. 14.

“The Drag Ball is a charity event that has consistently donated to the Vermont People with AIDS Coalition,” Bolyard said.

There was a donation table for the Coalition at the event, with free glow sticks, candy, condoms and stickers promoting safe sex.

“The decision to donate to the Vermont People with Aids Coalition started during the AIDS crisis and I feel a personal duty to continue it,” he said.

“I lost a lot of friends. It’s one of the reasons I do what I do. They’re not here to have fun — I got to have fun for them I guess,” Bolyard said.

Bolyard said he developed an interest in drag “after watching Cherie Tartt [Steven West] and Rev. Yolanda [Roger Anthony Mapes] on a TV show.”

“[They] made people laugh and told us it was okay to be outrageous and make fun of ourselves,” Bolyard said.

Bolyard and friend Mike Hayes, known as Margaurite LeMay in drag, came together with Johnnie McLaughlin, known as Lucy Belle LeMay and formed the House of LeMay, the group that hosts the event.

Outside of drag, Bolyard said he is involved in the UVM community.

He works as a standardized patient educator in the College of Medicine, and teaches medical students about the basic physical exam and communication skills, he said.

This year, Cherie and Yolanda returned to the stage. For one ticket, both the Ballroom and the Showcase Lounge provided six hours of entertainment, with many live performances including the Catamount Dance Crew.

The crew has performed at the event in past years. This year they danced to a Beyonce medley.

Drag queens performed covers of a wide range of songs, from modern music such as Nicki Minaj’s “Anaconda” to “Sweet Transvestite” from the Rocky Horror Picture Show.

This is Bolyard’s 12th year organizing the Ball with his partners in the House of LeMay. They arrange acts, organize staging and see that the show goes on.

The Drag Ball was originally held at the Burlington Memorial Auditorium but is currently held at Higher Ground.

“Throughout these moves, our potential audience has increased from 500 to 1,000 people,” Bolyard said. Concerning the LGBTQIA+ community, Bolyard said he is not politically involved.

“I don’t consider myself an advocate but I am an active participant and liaison to anyone interested in or curious about performing,” he said.

Bolyard said the House of LeMay has volunteered at many events around the state, including the Vermont Marathon, the Jazz Festival and the Mardi Gras Festival.

“If there’s a big party in town, we’re there. People love us and expect us to show up,” he said. Being a drag queen in Vermont has not been a social struggle, Bolyard said.
“For someone that says something bad, there are 10 people telling them to shut up,” Bolyard said.