Deja Brooks crowned Queen of Lawrence St. Patrick’s Day Parade; it ‘shows growth,’ she says

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St. Patrick’s Day Parade Committee members selected their queen on Sunday, and she already was one.

Deja Brooks, a Lawrence drag artist, said she was shocked and excited to be chosen as the special representative in the parade’s pageantry.

Each year, the queen and her candidates are honored for their hard work during the parade season, and it is the only event of the year that they do not help run, according to the parade website

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“It’s very exciting,” Brooks said. “I’m humbled and appreciative of the support and willingness for past and present committee members to have an open mind to having a queen as the Queen.” 

Brooks and the rest of the candidates — Amanda Burkhart, Emily Robertson and Shannon Kesler — have been involved in planning multiple events since the first week of January. They have been meeting weekly with the parade committee and gathering donations from community members and local businesses, along with volunteering or making appearances at every event leading up to the parade, like Irish road bowling and a motorcycle poker run.

Brooks said all of the candidates were deserving of the win, and discussed the friendship that the four built together during their volunteer work.

“We definitely built a great relationship amongst us,” she said. “Any one of us was very deserving to win. We all did our part in volunteering and obtaining donations and support and recognition for the beneficiaries.”

Brooks sits on the board of directors for the Lawrence Public Library Friends and Foundation, one of this year’s beneficiaries, and they asked her to be their candidate this year, she explained.

“It was really important to me to step up to that because of Deja’s Reading Rainbow. It’s not necessarily an LGBTQ+ event that’s hosted by the library, but it really does support all walks of life, all families, and all individuals with respect and love,” she said. 

Because the library has supported the event and then asked if she would be their queen candidate, Brooks said it “totally made sense that I put my best heel forward and represent the library in what they do to give back to our community.”

Brooks also acknowledged the growth she’s seen in Lawrence and even the parade itself, saying that 20-or-so years ago, LGBTQ+ floats were not allowed in the parade.

“The fact that here we are … with a drag queen voted as Queen of St. Patrick’s Day truly says something for the growth,” she said. “We all have growth … still ahead of (us), but the fact that we can come together and have a drag queen as the Queen of St. Pat’s, I think shows growth within our communities.”

Contributed Photo Deja Brooks, a Lawrence drag artist, was named Queen of the Lawrence St. Patrick’s Day Parade on Sunday.
Contributed Photo The St. Patrick’s Day Parade Queen candidates. From left to right: Shannon Kesler, Emily Robertson, Deja Brooks, Amanda Burkhart.
Contributed Photo The St. Patrick’s Day Parade Queen candidates. From left to right: Emily Robertson, Shannon Kesler, Deja Brooks, Amanda Burkhart.
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Brooks said it was important for her to prove to children that they have the opportunity to do whatever they want in life.

“For me, the fact that I can put on a dress, a wig, and heels and represent not only my community, but raise awareness and funds for different organizations, then I’m doing my part, which is truly giving back and supporting not only the (Lawrence) community, but the LGBTQ+ community as well.”

The St. Patrick’s Day Parade starts at 1 p.m. this Thursday, March 17, at 11th and Massachusetts streets. The route runs north through downtown and into North Lawrence, turning onto Locust Street and ending at the Flamingo Club.

MsAmanda Love, a Lawrence drag artist and reigning Miss Gay Kansas United States, will also be a feature in the parade. Love’s weekly drag show will start a little earlier than usual — following the parade Thursday afternoon — at the Jazzhaus, 926 1/2 Massachusetts St., for those ages 21 and up.

Parade organizers are still seeking more volunteers. Those interested in helping out can stop by Johnny’s Tavern North at 7 p.m. Tuesday, or check out this signup link.

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Emma Bascom (she/her) reported for The Lawrence Times from December 2021 through May 2022. Read more of her work for the Times here.

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