Lorelei Productions has announced this year’s Key West Miss Firecracker Pageant. The 2016 competition is set for Friday, July 1, in the upstairs Crystal Room at La Te Da, beginning at 8 p.m.
Miss Firecracker “will scorch Key West,” promised Rodney Ross, public relations/ marketing coordinator for AIDS Help.
The show will be hosted by Lorelei, a former Miss Key West Closet Ball, also known as Marty Ike, an Atlanta resident who is a frequent visitor to Key West. Featured performers this year will be Tracie Loren, Miss Firecracker 2015, and other former Miss Firecrackers.
“The event has always been pure camp,” but its intent has for many years been serious, Ross noted. This year as last, the production will benefit local Southernmost AIDS/HIV Mile Markers Teams competing in November’s SMART Ride, a 165-mile bike ride fundraising journey from Miami to Key West. Over the years the ride has raised in the neighborhood of $115,000 to $120,000, he said.
The reigning Miss Firecracker, Tracie Loren — aka Trey Forsyth — is an enthusiastic ambassador for the pageant, happily describing the interesting new friends she has made over the years (“there was a Coast Guard person and somebody about 70 years old”) and the thrill of winning the very first pageant in which she competed. Miss Loren is also a compelling example of the quality of the competition. She modestly reports that her 2015 runner-up is now the reigning Queen Mother, Charleze Angell. Trey is a popular local vocalist and competitor in “Aqua Idol.” And that’s singing, not lip syncing. He is also proud to sing in “St. Paul’s Christmas Concert each year as well as the annual benefit for Wounded Warriors which raised $15,000” this year.
Mr. Forsyth was born and raised in Wilmington, N.C., and in fact studied opera performance as a teen and was a member of the opera company there. He then attended the top-rated North Carolina School of the Performing Arts and, after careers as varied as music pastor for a local Baptist church and owner of a fiberglass pool distribution center, he ended up at Key West’s Sea Shell Motel eight years ago. Almost as a lark, he dressed in drag and walked up and down Duval Street, posing for photos with tourists for the money. No one will be surprised to learn that Sushi, the eternal Den Mother of the 801 Bourbon’s drag troupe, offered him a job on the spot. After a couple of years he moved up Duval Street to La Te Da, where he is now runs sound and light for performances in the Crystal Room.
In the role of Miss Firecracker, he happily reports he has been able to help raise additional funds for AIDS Help by way of his cabaret show “This Is My Life” with Christopher Peterson and Tracy Reynolds as guest artists, and also by appearing as a guest for Peterson’s Broads of Broadway show.
It is very clear that his heart belongs to AIDS Help. “AIDS Help is such a quality organization that helps a lot of people,” said the reigning Miss Firecracker. “It really feels good to give back to a group that has given so much to me.”
A Yankee Doodle Dandy, Miss Firecracker was born July 4, 1987, in South Carolina, according to pageant history. The Miss South Carolina Pageant was about to happen at a posh local club. Management at a competing club sought something to lure patrons. Beers and brainstorming created the Miss Firecracker Pageant.
“There was no beauty on that runway,” history reports. “Hairy chests and faces were paired with rhinestones and high heels. The winner was Charlena Sugarbaker, the late Charlie Powell.”
After the South Carolina Miss Firecracker Pageant had folded, Charlie relocated to Key West, assuming the matriarchal mantle and fine-tuning the pageant in 1994 into something more refined, including drag performers who might otherwise never consider entering and benefiting selected nonprofit organizations. And the rest is history. The Miss Firecracker Pageant is now a much anticipated annual Key West fundraising event.
The 2016 pageant will include the annual presentation of the Ronda Riviera Humanitarian Award, named after the late, beloved Ron Wright, a talented and generous supporter of the community and the 2001 Miss Firecracker.
Put a little ka-boom into your Friday night. ¦