Heat Bar & Nightclub in Wilkes-Barre hosts inaugural NEPA Drag Fest May 26 through 28
As festival season kicks off in Northeastern Pennsylvania with the Fine Arts Fiesta and Susquehanna Breakdown, Heat Bar & Nightclub in Wilkes-Barre brings a new kind of multi-day performance showcase.
The inaugural NEPA Drag Fest takes place at the nightclub, 71 North Main St., May 26 through 28 with a series of celebrations and acts featuring both local and celebrity drag performers.
Heat proprietor Shawn Ebert, who performs as Estella Sweet, called the event the first of its kind in the area. The idea, he said, evolved from a need for the region to represent the drag community and an extension of Sweet’s annual birthday celebration, which regularly features a drag show.
“Every year, I try to bring in a headliner for my birthday,” Ebert said. “Being that I have my own venue, I thought, ‘Why not make it a three-day event?’”
The festival starts at 5 p.m. May 26 with renowned drag queen Jackie Beat, who visits Wilkes-Barre for a happy hour performance before her show premiers in New York City. Ebert called Beat a legend in drag culture.
May 26 rounds out with naughty trivia. Tickets are required for Beat’s performance, but trivia has no cover.
May 27 is Sweet’s birthday bash, hosted by “RuPaul’s Drag Race” alumna Mimi Imfurst, with performers coming from Philadelphia and Allentown.
May 28 is the grand finale with Nashville actress Cinda McCain, who has become a Youtube sensation with her politically forward looking but rough-around-the-edges character Loretta Jenkins, acting as grand marshal. West Pittston performer Bobby Light (Ella Fine on stage) acts as co-host, and All American Goddess at Large 2016 Kristina Kelly is the featured performer.
McCain, through vulgar liberal rants as Jenkins on her series “How I Seize It” has become a hero of the LGBTQ community because of her advocacy for all civil rights.
“She’s got an underground online cult of people who follow her,” McCain said.
McCain was awarded for her role as Meg in a Nasvhille production of “Crimes of the Heart.” Her resume has mainstream bullets from roles in film “Country Strong” and TV series “Nashville,” and her first leading-lady film role arrives in the forthcoming indie flick “Crazy All These Years.”
But it’s Jenkins who has brought her more attention than any other role.
She credits the genius of writer/director Jason Vitteri-Lewis for creating the character she’s become so comfortable in, and she lauds the LGBTQ community for its support.
McCain said she’s always accepted all people, having gay friends since her teens.
“I was divinely guided not to judge people,” she said.
Although her acting career has had several highlights, her performance as Jenkins at Drag Fest will be the first star in her crown as a rights advocate, McCain said.
Reach Matt Mattei at 570-991-6651 or Twitter @TLArts
If you go:
What: NEPA Drag Fest
Where: Heat Bar & Nightclub, 71 North Main St., Wilkes-Barre
When: May 26 through 28
Additional information: Tickets for drag fest are $10 per night and are available online at heatnepa.ecwid.com. For more information contact Estella Sweet or Ben Eaton at [email protected]