By Nadine Cafaro
It’s the event that no one in authority dares mention by name.
Mayor Steve Brescia, when addressing the event at last week’s village board meeting, would only refer to it as “the event that’s going to happen on April 1.”
“I’m all for tolerance and acceptance,” the mayor said, “but I think the vehicle on which this event is going to happen on April 1 is not the correct way to do that event. “
When pressed by a member of the audience for specifics, he told the questioner to look it up on Facebook.
At the center of the event is Cookie Doe, a drag artist who will appear at 8 Factory Street on Saturday afternoon at a ticketed event to read a selection of short books to children in attendance. Response to the first scheduled story hour was so great that a second one was added.
The children will be attending with their parents for a “sweet little storytime,” in the words of event organizer Claire Pahucki.
Pahucki said they haven’t chosen books yet, but that it’ll be something like Frog and Toad. She added that there isn’t any connotation or deeper meaning.
“There’s no secrets. There’s no hidden agenda,” said Pahucki, “It’s a safe space for them to help spread knowledge of kindness and inclusivity.”
Guests can also take pictures with Cookie Doe as well as indulge in book-shaped cookies.
Because of the response, Claire’s husband, Walter Pahucki, took to Facebook himself on one of their business’ pages. The husband and wife own Ms Claire’s Music Cupboard and Montgomery Book Exchange.
“We decided to hold this event fully aware of possible negativity, but more importantly, fully aware of the positive impact it could have on our community,” wrote Walter Pahucki. “We will have a person reading children’s books to children in our store. (Story Time) These children will be accompanied by their own parents, who are fully aware of all the details of this event,”
This post itself earned almost 400 responses, some being negative, which Claire Pahucki was sad to see.
“We decided to do this and knew we’d have pushback, but not to this capacity,” said Claire Pahucki.
While one comment stated, “Thank you for providing a warm and safe space for our LGBTQIIA+ and ally community,” another said, “Children are innocent and should be protected. There is a trail of used bookstores and I will be moving on to the next one.”
Lisa Ruiz, a founding member of Valley Central Parents for Social Justice has given her support for the event, noting that she understands people’s right to protest. However, she hopes if it happens, it’s done respectfully.
“I hope people do it in a non-threatening way,” said Ruiz.
Though he does not support the event, Brescia said there was nothing the village could do to stop it.
“I’ve gotten numerous texts, phone calls, and a lot of people are concerned about children’s safety and the vehicle by which this little story telling is going to happen, so I don’t agree with it at all,” Brescia said. “Somebody put it on Facebook that I endorse it, I agree with it, I do not agree with it at all. ..Though I do agree with tolerance and acceptance, it’s not the right way to go, I’ll just leave it at that.”
Because of the volume of responses the event has gotten, there have been multiple measures taken to make it safe for attendees. The Town and Village of Montgomery Police Departments put out a joint statement Monday night to remind everyone that event is a private event, closed to everyone except those possessing a valid ticket for entrance. The statement doesn’t specifically mention the event by name.
“While everyone is entitled to their opinion, we remind you that if you do not like the material or do not support this event, you have the option to stay home and not attend,” read a joint statement from Village of Montgomery Police Chief William Herlihy and Town of Montgomery Police Chief John Hank. “No one in attendance is being subjected to anything against their will. The parents attending and bringing their children are choosing to attend this event.”
The police urged that anyone wishing to peacefully protest the event must do so in a public area, such as the sidewalks along Ward Street, provided they don’t obstruct pedestrian traffic.
“We ask that you familiarize yourself with article 240.20 of the New York State Penal Law,” the police chiefs said, warning that anyone protesting on private property is subject to arrest for trespassing.
The police chiefs suggested that anyone interested in visiting the Village of Montgomery on Saturday – or any day for that matter - should “feel free to visit the lovely restaurants and shops and take in all that the beautiful Village of Montgomery has to offer.”