Guinness World Record for most attended drag story time reading set in Philadelphia

An LGBTQ+ publication in Philadelphia has claimed the record for the largest attendance at a drag queen story time reading, according to Guinness World Records.

Drag queens read books to 263 people at the city’s National Constitution Center last Saturday during an event hosted by the Philadelphia Gay News and sponsored by tourism agency Visit Philadelphia, according to Guinness and the organizers.

“Considering the fact that there are so many negative pieces of legislation in various states, primarily against the trans community and drag community, we thought it was very important that Philadelphia showed (it) is quite different than all those other places,” said Mark Segal, founder and publisher of the Philadelphia Gay News.

“I was thinking all the time, ‘Here we are, doing this incredible record-breaking act and is exactly what America is all about: the pursuit of happiness,’” added Segal, an activist for LGBTQ+ rights who participated in the 1969 Stonewall riots.

Adults and children who gathered on the first day of Pride Month at the event listened to several performers who read “’Twas the Night Before Pride” by Joanna McClintick, “Elmer” by David McKee, “The Family Book” by Todd Parr and “Kevin the Unicorn: It’s Not All Rainbows” by Jessika von Innerebner, organizers said.

Brittany Lynn, an activist and performer who has led and organized a drag queen story time program in the city for nearly a decade, read “Hello, Philadelphia!” by Martha Day Zschock. Lynn said the books were curated to center around themes of love, diversity and acceptance.

“Our goal is to give the kids the fun of learning to read and make literacy fun. That’s our mission. People get it all twisted when they see drag queens reading (to) the kids but if they actually came to drag queen story time and saw what we were all about, I feel like there wouldn’t be any animosity,” Lynn said.

A spokesperson for Visit Philadelphia said the event warranted additional safety precautions due to the event’s nature and the warnings issued by the federal government about LGBTQ+ events. Those precautions included “careful consideration” for when and how to promote the event, they said.

Last month, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security issued a warning foreign terrorist organizations and their supporters may target LGBTQ+ events and venues as Pride Month approached, CNN previously reported.

As hundreds of people waited for the drag performers to start reading, Lynn said it appeared they were 10 people short of the record and went through the story time not knowing what would happen. The confirmation didn’t come until the last performer was reading their story.

“I think that the audience was just as excited as we were. You could hear the children clapping, and everybody was so proud that we did this, not just the girls that were in the show, not just us as performers but the entire audience. Everybody that worked so hard to make this happen. It was a shared moment that we all had collectively together,” said Lynn of the moment when the performers stood on stage holding the Guinness certificate.

For Segal, one of the organizers, the record proved to the world nothing can stop their pride.

“We came together anyway. We said in the face of adversity, we are here, we are visible, and that made me very, very proud. Now, my community, I would say, we stand against any type of violence, and we will be visible. You can’t bully us,” Segal said.

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