Skip to Main Content

VisitErie Blog

Pridefest Parade 27 of 34 credit David Tamulonis

Erie's Drag Scene - Art in Heels

Tuesday Jun 6th, 2023

A Community of Art in Heels

Drag performing in Erie Pennsylvania has become an increasingly popular and vibrant part of the local arts and entertainment scene. Drag refers to the art form where individuals, often LGBTQ+ performers, transform themselves into exaggerated, glamorous, and often gender-bending personas through make-up, costumes, and performances. Erie drag contributes to the region’s cultural diversity and serves as a form of artistic self-expression, entertainment, and celebration of inclusivity. In 2022, the City of Erie did something amazing-scoring a perfect 100 out of 100 on the Municipality Equality Index (MEI)! Erie’s perfect score, one of only five cities to do so in Pennsylvania, demonstrates a sincere commitment to valuing and supporting the region’s LGBTQ+ community. Pictured above: Local queens Debbie (Miss Erie 2022) and Pissi Gabune at Erie Pride 2022.

Erie’s drag scene showcases a wide range of talents, including lip-synching, comedy, dance, and theatrical routines. Here, there are numerous ways to explore and experience the high energy and excitement of drag performance.

  • Celebrating 25 years as Erie’s queer bar, and the only LGBTQ+ bar in Erie County, The Zone Dance Club, hosts a multitude of drag shows including the monthly Sunday “FACE” show, themed weekends with pop-up drag shows, weekly trivia nights with Rebecca Mae, RuPaul’s Drag Race viewing parties with local drag queen appearances, and Sunday drag brunches.
  • Attend the annual Erie Pride Fest and Pride Parade, taking place this year on Saturday, June 24. The parade begins at 11th and State Streets and marches north to the festival at Perry Square. Drag queens can be seen performing on parade floats as well as on the main stage.
  • Drag BINGOs, Paint with Drag, Drag Storytelling, and other related events pop up throughout the year at various locations. Stay up to date with announcements by Northwest PA Pride Alliance.

Three of Erie’s charismatic (and truly fabulous) drag queens weighed in to voice their thoughts on Erie drag as well as provide a glimpse into their own personal experiences. Michelle Michaels, Rebecca Mae, and Alysin Wonderland are part of Erie’s tight-knit community of drag “sisters” who support and uplift each other in and out of drag.

michelle michaels

Michelle Michaels is an Erie native who has been performing in drag since 1995. Throughout her long career, she has held several titles including Miss Embers 2002, Miss Erie 2005, and Miss Omaha Nebraska Entertainer of the Year in 2006. She has hosted “FACE” drag performance and is the promoter and founder of “Michelle Michaels’ Pink Party Weekend Breast Cancer Benefit” at The Zone Dance Club. Her name was inspired by combining her given male name, Michael, and a sister Melissa, who passed away. Performing since she was 19, Michelle Michaels drew upon her years of dance and made it part of her drag persona.

When asked how performing in Erie is different from performing in larger cities, she responded, “Bigger cities tend to have bigger attitudes, bigger egos, and bigger problems. In Erie, we’re a close-knit sisterhood that tends to work well together. Out-of-town performers recognize this and will comment on how close the Erie group appears. Erie only has one gay bar. Larger cities have more than one and most bars have their own “girls” and that sparks a lot of competition, more rivalries and it can be pretty cutthroat. Smaller communities have their benefits.”

rebecca mae v2

Rebecca Mae is an Erie native and has been performing in drag since 2017. Crowned Miss Erie in 2019, she travels frequently to perform within the tri-state area and at colleges and universities across the country, hosting “Pop Up Pride” with XL Event Labs. Even though Rebecca Mae is fairly new to drag, she has been a performer for most of her life. She feels that drag is becoming more accepted in Erie. “I think it’s definitely gotten better. After I returned home and started hosting drag brunches and bingos, attendance was great and there was very little pushback. You will still get the occasional protestor, but that’s to be expected. With that said, I don’t see it as being as big of an issue as it is in larger cities.”

As a traveling drag performer, Rebecca Mae added that hailing from a smaller-sized city such as Erie presents some challenges. “Getting your name out there in larger cities and venues requires a lot of time, patience, and persistence. Every day, I check all my social media accounts, create posts, view comments, and respond accordingly on a daily basis. I strive to always be ahead of the game and continue to build my brand so that when I’m out on the road, people recognize me and know I’m from Erie, Pennsylvania.”

alysin wonderland

Alysin Wonderland is a native of Altoona, PA, and has been performing in drag since 2005. She has performed across Pennsylvania and offers Q&A Facebook live makeup and skincare tutorials on a regular basis. Alysin was Miss Erie First Runner Up in 2019 and 2022 and placed third overall for Miss Erie 2021. As a fan of drag-related TV shows and movies, she sees both the positive and negative sides to Erie’s drag evolution.

“It’s become more accepting, but I think that’s because drag has become more mainstream. Compared to years past, there are a lot more TV shows and movies about drag. The only problem is, many people have an assumption or a high standard that ALL drag queens should be like the ones they see on movies or TV, much like RuPaul’s Drag Race. If you don’t look like that or act like that, then you’re nothing.” Growing up, Alysin suffered from severe stage fright and social anxiety. Performing in drag provided levels of comfort and confidence. Whether she’s performing in Erie or elsewhere, Alysin has this message to convey. “I stand proud and I stand loud. I want to empower people and give them the encouragement and the courage to say that if this queen can conquer her fears, I can too.”

Partner Spotlight

Two45 Web 400 x 300 px

Two45 Waterfront Grille Now Open!

Savor an exquisite waterfront dining experience at Sheraton Erie Bayfront Hotel, where culinary excellence meets panoramic views. This signature restaurant invites you to indulge in a delectable journey with a menu showcasing locally sourced ingredients and global inspirations while overlooking the serene waters of Lake Erie.

Learn More

Mall Image Spotlight v2

Millcreek Mall

The Millcreek Mall features more than 160 stores, restaurants, and fun for the whole family on Upper Peach Street, Erie’s most popular shopping district! Shopping in Erie means no sales tax on clothing or shoes. Choose from a variety of hotels located on the Mall property and just minutes away at the intersection of Peach Street and Interstate 90.

Learn More

u pick 6 spotlight

U Pick 6 Craft Beer Pubs & Restaurants

Erie’s own local craft beer pubs are a must-visit! With 4 great locations, just pick one that’s convenient for you! A casual, family friendly dining experience with something for everyone! To view our menu, check out what’s on tap, or get to directions to our pubs, learn more now!”

Learn More

erie events spotlight

Erie Events

Erie Events manages a four facility entertainment complex that includes the Warner Theatre, Erie Insurance Arena, Bayfront Convention Center and UPMC Park. These four venues host a variety of events that include world-class entertainment, family friendly shows and sporting events.

Learn More

814 photo Spotlight 400 x 300

814 Photo

Showcasing the incredible year round beauty of the City of Erie and its surrounding areas, commonly referred to as its area code "the 814". Explore some of Erie County's most breathtaking landscape photography.

Learn More

Farmhouse retreat Spotlight 400 x 300

Farmhouse Retreat

Your “Home Away from Home” short term rental sleeps 8 and is in a great location close to Erie Sports Center, Splash Lagoon, shopping and restaurants, as well as Steelhead Fishing. This restored 1881 Farmhouse is located on 10 private acres. Reminisce about bygone days when life was slower and simpler. With a long driveway and large yard, kick back by the firepit, watch wildlife or enjoy a beautiful Erie sunset from the back patio.

Learn More

The Cork Partner Spotlight 400 x 300 1

The Cork 1794

Open for Lunch and Dinner. Get ready for an experience like no other. An atmosphere where uncommon style, comfort and service seamlessly meld. Where food and beverages are expertly crafted to be beautiful, satisfying and truly special. A place that makes every day feel like a reason to celebrate.

Learn More

mazza spotlight

Mazza Vineyards and the South Shore Wine Company

The Mazza family welcomes you to explore 3 unique locations in Lake Erie Wine Country. Sip and savor award-winning wines at Mazza Vineyards and the historic South Shore Wine Company, both located in North East, PA, and be sure to visit their combination winery, distillery and brewery, Mazza Chautauqua Cellars/Five & 20 Spirits and Brewing, in nearby Westfield, NY.

Learn More

the cove from the cove site

The Cove Bay-Side Restaurant & Tavern

The Cove Bay-Side Restaurant & Tavern is sure to give you an unforgettable and care-free dining experience. Enjoy a nautical atmosphere with a beautiful view of Presque Isle Bay.

Learn More

Poverty Knob for web and app 400 x 300 px

Poverty Knob Farmhouse Ales

Stop by Port Farms to check out the newest addition, Poverty Knob Farmhouse Ales. We offer hand-crafted beers and delicious sharable food year-round. The brewery is family and dog friendly with both indoor and outdoor spaces. We offer games, music and entertainment for all ages!

Learn More

Hamot Spotlight 400 x 300

UPMC Hamot - See What Makes Us Different

UPMC Hamot is a 458-bed hospital in Erie, Pennsylvania, offering a full complement of inpatient and outpatient services. The hospital serves as a regional referral hub and is the only accredited trauma center in the region.

Learn More

ASCEND Spotlight 400 x 300 1

ASCEND Erie - Climbing | Fitness | Yoga

NOW OPEN! ASCEND fosters a community-centered climbing, fitness, and yoga experience by serving individuals and groups of all ages, backgrounds and abilities. Located in Downtown Erie, ASCEND welcomes Erie visitors to stop in and give climbing a try!

Learn More

Dobbins Landing Spring 2022 EB 2

Dobbins Landing

Located on the southeast shore of Lake Erie, the Port of Erie has been promoting industrial, commercial, and recreational opportunities on the waters of Lake Erie since 1959.

Learn More

Just for fun!

Experience family summer fun on more than 100 great rides, slides and attractions at Waldameer!

One stop convenience.

Fill your tank, pick up fresh food from local brands, and a six-pack to go in 40 regional locations.

Ante-up, Erie.

Find true action with slots, table games, sports book, and horse racing.

Award-Winning Compassionate Care

Voted Erie’s Choice Best Hospital for eight years in a row

Soak in the fun!

Experience 84 degrees all year at one of the top water parks in the country.

Soak in the fun!

Experience 84 degrees all year at one of the top water parks in the country.

Award-Winning Compassionate Care

Voted Erie’s Choice Best Hospital for eight years in a row

Ante-up, Erie.

Find true action with slots, table games, sports book, and horse racing.

One stop convenience.

Fill your tank, pick up fresh food from local brands, and a six-pack to go in 40 regional locations.

Just for fun!

Experience family summer fun on more than 100 great rides, slides and attractions at Waldameer!