Drag queens add sparkle to story time

Drag performer Harmonica Sunbeam kicks off the Epiphany Library’s summer reading series by reading to children and doing crafts with them on Friday. (Photos by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

It wasn’t even noon, but the atmosphere in the room already felt like a party, with at least 20 of the 35 or so young guests donning sparkly boas. The venue was the Epiphany branch of the New York Public Library on East 23rd Street, where kids aged 3-7 and their parents awaited the arrival of a drag queen. The occasion? It was on Friday at 11 a.m. and the library’s summer reading series was being kicked off with “Drag Queen Story Hour.”

Now over a year old, the program is aimed at promoting diversity and gender acceptance, and, as its official website explains, “give kids glamorous, positive and unabashedly queer role models.”

DQSH was founded in San Francisco by Michelle Tea and Radar Productions but has since branched out to other cities. It first came to New York’s Brooklyn Library and June 15 was the first time for Epiphany, where kids showed up with parents or on a class trip. Most of those in attendance, including boys, opted in for boas, which came in a few colors and were distributed by the library.

Prior to greeting the children, the drag queen doing the reading, Harmonica Sunbeam, told Town & Village she got involved with the program after seeing a Facebook post seeking drag performers to read the kids. This was after the Brooklyn Library hosted an event, which, she recalled, “went viral and there was a demand for more queens.”

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Cooling centers open during Monday’s dangerously hot weather

Joey and Sammy Haskell load up their water guns at Stuy Town's Playground 9 on a recent afternoon. Photo by Sabina Mollot

Joey and Sammy Haskell load up their water guns at Stuy Town’s Playground 9 on a recent afternoon. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

With Sunday’s hot and humid weather expected to continue on Monday, the city has announced cooling centers will be open.

Additionally, due to the dangerously hot weather, Mayor Bill de Blasio is urging New Yorkers to take steps to protect themselves and help others who may be at increased risk from the heat, including vulnerable individuals such as seniors and those with chronic health problems.

Forecasted temperatures for Monday are in the 90s with heat index values reaching as high as the low 100s. Additionally, an Air Quality Alert is in effect today through 11 p.m. New Yorkers should use air conditioning to stay cool, go to a place that has air conditioning if it is not available at home, drink water at regular intervals and limit strenuous activity, especially during the hottest parts of the day.

Local cooling centers include the following locations. Hours may change during heat emergencies.

Epiphany branch of the New York Public Library, 228 East 23rd Street (between Second and Third Avenue). Call (212) 679-2645 to confirm hours.

Stein Senior Center, 204 East 23rd Street (between Second and Third Avenue) through 6 p.m. UPDATE: The center announced it will be closing at 4:30 p.m.

Campos Plaza, 611 East 13th Street (between Avenues B and C). Call (212) 677-1801 to confirm hours of operation.

Sirovich Senior Center, 331 East 12th Street (between First and Second Avenues). Call (212) 228-7836 to confirm hours of operation.

Tompkins Square branch of the New York Public Library, 331 East 10th Street (between Avenues A and B). Call (212) 228-4747 to confirm hours of operation.

Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village residents can also head to the Community Center at 449 East 14th Street (First Avenue Loop at 16th Street). Another option for cooling down is heading to one of the playgrounds with water features.

Waterside residents can head to the Community Center at 40 Waterside Plaza through 6 p.m.