When we talk about drag racing, we know what you’re thinking: a hot chick with a scarf at the starting line, two badass dudes in souped-up hot rods trying to settle some inconsequential score and one high-speed race down an abandoned stretch of highway.
Well, in Key West you can take all of your preconceived drag race-related notions and toss them right out the muscle car window. During the annual Conch Republic Independence Anniversary Celebration (more commonly known by locals as the Conch Republic Days), our drag races are less Corvette and Camaro and more Mulysa Gard and Beatrix Dixie. In true Key West style, Saturday’s drag race is unlike any in the known universe, according to the organizers.
“Queens race in heels!” asserts the official guide’s unlikely headline, but in Key West it is more than likely; it is quite familiar and, in fact, happens yearly. 2019 reportedly marks the 23rd drag race held in honor of our micro nation’s (short-lived) declaration of independence, the 37th anniversary of which is being celebrated from Friday, April 19, through Sunday, April 28.
The infamous drag race, the only festival event that practically mandates stiletto heels, mini-skirts and hairspray, begins at noon on Saturday, April 20. The Great Conch Republic Drag Race takes place on the 700 block of Duval Street (have you ever tried to run more than a block in heels?!) and will feature a gaggle of dudes looking like ladies, all decked out in daringly short dresses, full makeup and teased tresses and racing down the pavement in their highest platform heels.
Oh, and did we mention they have to tackle an obstacle course, made all the more treacherous by the nature of the footwear involved? These obstacles include running football drill-style through tires, weaving overstuffed shopping carts between traffic cones in a driver’s test from hell and dodging an abandoned wig or two like you’re Donkey Kong dodging banana peels in Mario Kart.
Sponsored since its incipient days by the Bourbon Street Pub, the event is formally named the “Conch Republic’s NHRA (Natural Hot Rod Association) Sanctioned Drag Race” and benefits the Petronia Street Neighborhood Association. “The monster event features drag racers powered by Prada, Manolo Blahnik, Christian Louboutin and other fine builders of high-heeled shoes. That’s right . . . we are not racing cars here, we are racing the most beautiful drag queens in the known universe,” enthuses the official Conch Republic Independence Celebration Guide
This year the event is cosponsored by Bourbon Street Pub, US1 Radio 104.1FM, Florida Keys Media and Revolucion Tequila. Bourbon Street’s Joey Schroeder is delighted to sponsor this event every year. “After the Copa burned, we were trying to think up ideas to make people happy and have fun,” he says, explaining that the loss of the iconic club was like a beloved friend dying. The Drag Races cheered everyone up after the Copa’s demise and they still do. “I love this event!” Schroeder exclaims.
“The 700 block of Duval will be closed to traffic for the one-of-a-kind event that could only happen in the Conch Republic. It’s a 300-yard dash for the gold, and racers are handicapped based on every half inch of heel over the minimum three inches,” according to the guide. Participants will have the opportunity to test run the course (a word to the stiletto-clad wise: take advantage of this opportunity — nothing hurts your pride worse than a twisted heel), then they will compete one-on-one. The two fastest queens will compete in the final race for the glory and a shiny trophy.
After the first and second place winners are determined, special trophies and awards will be given for Best and Worst Suicide Drag. What is Suicide Drag, you ask? Oh, to be young and uninitiated!
Suicide Drag, dear innocent readers, is the act of lip-syncing a completely random song — without the benefit of those helpful lyrics screens. A horrifying feat for your average karaoke-goer without having to jump hurdles beforehand, the queens competing in the race must not only exhibit physical but performance prowess during the Drag Race halftime show.
Although the outcomes are technically based on the quality of the performance, organizers note that “you can bribe your favorite queen from last place into first! Ah!!! Up-front bribing . . . what a wonderful tradition. No need to question where you stand . . . bribe your way into the winner’s circle.”
Just another quiet Saturday in Key West.
Participation is relatively open — registration is free and anyone can enter, but all contestants must be in heels and women’s clothing and look somewhat like a woman . . . pretty or ugly.
For more information, contact the New Orleans House at 305-293-9800. ¦